BOISE - A federally-funded program that provides health insurance for uninsured children in families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid has been in limbo for months, with Congress passing only temporary funding.
Unless Congress votes to fully renew funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), about nine million American children will be left without it.
CHIP is federally funded, but administered by each individual state.
We set out verify what will happen to Idaho children if funding is cut.
"[CHIP] covers more than 22,000 children in Idaho," said Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesperson Niki Forbing-Orr. "I think those families probably rely on that program pretty heavily to keep their children healthy."
For the Bass family, CHIP proved a necessity. In 2001, Ken Bass lost his job, and the family lost their health insurance.
"The CHIP program helped us through a time we were not expecting, and it could happen to anybody," Ken's wife Michelle Bass said.
They were eligible for the program to insure their two children for a couple years.
"Need to go get their check-ups, there were times when they were sick and we took them to the doctor. And we didn't have to worry about that additional cost when we already were just trying to figure out how we were going to pay the mortgage that month,. We didn't have to worry about that. And that was huge," Michelle Bass said.
Forbing-Orr says because Congress signed a resolution to temporarily fund CHIP through the end of March, Idaho will have the money to administer through that time.
"Like everybody else we're still hopeful that they're going to come up with a solution to re-authorize the program and keep it running strong," Forbing-Orr said.
If Congress fails to re-authorize CHIP, questions remain about what the state will do next.
"We are looking at different solutions," Forbing-Orr said. "We're working with the governor's office on those. There are pros and cons to every one. They'll require legislative approval."
Legislative approval is required because the solutions the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) is discussing could require the state to pay.
IDHW is required by state statute to provide health insurance to children whose families make up to 185-percent of the federal poverty limit. The department says they will give families a 15-day notice if CHIP funding is cut and notify families of their solution.
"To have the state legislature in a position where they don't know what or if they would need to allocate money to make sure that Idaho's kids are insured really doesn't make sense in terms of policy-making and putting our kids first," said Liz Woodruff with Boise nonprofit Idaho Voices For Children.
Woodruff says the short-term patch by Congress is just a band-aid, and there needs to be a five-year fix.
"This just kicks the can down the road," Woodruff said. "It continues the uncertainty about what's happening with this program, and really, getting our kids access to health care shouldn't be a political issue.
"Idaho families are fed up! They want to know how they're going to pay their medical bills going into the coming year," she added.
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