KFBB - October 4, 2017
By January, families in Montana may face life without the Healthy Montana Kids program. There are over 20,000 children here in the state that rely on the medical coverage.
The program fell under the national Children's Health Insurance Program, which helped families secure medical coverage.
September 30th was the last day for Congress to renew the program, which they didn't do. Instead, congressional leaders focused on overhauling the current healthcare system in the United States.
Senator Tester said congress letting this happen is extremely disheartening.
"Washington dysfunction continues to hit new heights, instead of working to ensure that Montana kids can get the health coverage they need Congress has wasted time on partisan health care bills, that was going to raise the raise and kick people off their health care plans. Congress must act now to provide certainty for Montana families," said Senator Tester.
“Tens of thousands of Montana families rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for their children to have health coverage. The program has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and I expect Congress will reauthorize CHIP soon.”
In Cascade County, over 1,300 children would go without coverage. Healthy Montana Kids is funded by both state and federal funding. If CHIP is not renewed all costs of the medical coverage fall on the state. Governor Steve Bullock weighted in on the issue.
“This is bad for Montana kids, bad for Montana families, and bad for Montana's budget. The failure of Congress to act puts over 23,000 Montana kids at risk and could put a $96 million hole in our budget," said Governor Bullock.
Parents like Susan Keatts who is a mother of five said even with the income they have she needs her children to be covered. She has two children who are asthmatic and have to have certain medication to help control it. Without coverage, their lives could be at stake.
"It's scary to have children who you know at least twice a year end up in the hospital because I can't control their breathing and I need the assistance of a doctor and if I don't have the insurance I can't pay for it," said Keatts.
In as statement from Congressman Greg Giantforte, he is hopeful.
“Tens of thousands of Montana families rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for their children to have health coverage. The program has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and I expect Congress will reauthorize CHIP soon,” said Congressman Giantforte.
According to Heather O'Loughin Co-Director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center said Healthy Montana Kids is funded by a combination of Medicaid and CHIP. Only children who get CHIP funding will be affected, and have certain income guidelines. For example, a family of three earned $23,000 a year won't be affected because they are covered under Medicaid. But a family of 3 who earns between $29,000 to $53,000 will be affected.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.