Thousands of Idaho children could be uninsured after CHIP funding expired

Posted at 5:27 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 19:35:31-04

Nine million kids across the country may be uninsured after congress allowed the Children's Health Insurance Program to expire.

In a few months, around 35,000 children in Idaho could be without health coverage.

Known as CHIP, the program provides health insurance for children in families with low and moderate incomes.

"There's really no good reason that congress didn't meet that deadline," said Lauren Necochea, Idaho Voices for Children. "So, we'll be working in the coming weeks to ensure that CHIP is renewed, and that kids can continue to go and see the doctor."

The federal government has funded most of the program, with states contributing a marginal amount. 

If funding isn't restored, children enrolled in the program will be unable to see a doctor for routine check-ups, immunizations, and other medical services.

"One of the fundamental areas of care in the medical home is to provide stability," said Dr. Mark Uranga, pediatrician with St. Luke's Health System. "And that stability is best when kids have continuous health care coverage."

Advocates are hopeful congress will pass the Keeping Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act -- legislation that would extend funding for CHIP for five years.

"Kids will be able to see a doctor when they need to, they'll get prescription eyeglasses and, if something really serious occurs, they can go to the hospital," Necochea said.

State health officials say Idaho's current CHIP program has funding through January. 

Funding for another federal program expired over the weekend, as well.

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program lapsed on Sept. 30. It provided home-based support to about 160,000 families throughout the fiscal year 2016.