While the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) lingers with Congress, thousands of Idaho families who rely on the government-backed health care plan are left in limbo. Funding for the program stopped Sept. 30, and the pressure is mounting for a solution.
Nearly nine million children across the U.S. rely on CHIP for their health care needs. Now, their accessibility to health care rests on the shoulders of the federal government.
“We can’t continue to kick the can down the road for Idaho’s kids,” said Liz Woodruff, Assistant Director of Idaho Voices for Children. “Over 22,000 children in Idaho right now rely on CHIP, and those families need the security to know how they’re going to pay their health care bills by the first of the year.”
Congress failed to reauthorize CHIP in the fall, which stopped new funding. Since then, states have been given unused funds to help them keep their CHIP benefits afloat.
In Idaho, state health officials estimate funding to last through January.
“We do have enough funding to last through the first week in February now, as we’ve received those redistributed funds, so we’re hopeful that most of the kids who are enrolled in CHIP won’t see any break in their service or anything like that,” said Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.
If funding isn’t restored, children enrolled in the program will be unable to see a doctor for routine check-ups, immunizations and other services.
For now, children and their families remain uncertain about the future of their health care coverage.
“We really just hope our members of Congress will be leaders, they’ll take action now and they’ll reauthorize CHIP for five years and fully fund the program going forward,” Woodruff said.
Nearly 50 percent of all newborns, children with disabilities and toddlers in Idaho receive coverage through CHIP, as do 100 percent of foster children in Idaho.