Great Falls Tribune - November 17, 2017
Sen. Jon Tester said Friday he has introduced legislation to continue funding for a program that he said provides low-cost health coverage to nearly 24,000 Montana children.
The Montana Democrat said the if the Children's Health Insurance Program does not get funding through Congress by early next year, it could run out of money “and that is unacceptable.”
The Republican-led Congress let the CHIP deadline pass amid failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The program was primarily funded by the federal government, with states paying less. States still have some CHIP money available.
Tester was joined by Gov. Steve Bullock, a Whitefish mother, and Sue Buswell, Montana director for the National Association of School Nurses, in supporting the program, which is also known as CHIP.
It provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
It was signed into law in 1997. All states have expanded children's coverage through their CHIP programs, with nearly every state providing coverage for children up to at least 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Bullock said CHIP has been a successful program in Montana and is part of the Montana Healthy Kids program.
“No parent should have to wonder if their paycheck is big enough to take cre of a sick child,” he said.
Bullock called on Congress to approve the funding.
“There is still time to stop this trainwreck,” he said.
According to the Montana Budget and Policy Center, more than 30 percent of children are covered through Healthy Montana Kids — the state’s Medicaid and CHIP program.
Montana uses CHIP through a combination of a separate CHIP program and a CHIP-funded Medicaid expansion.
Kelsey Whitby of Whitefish clutched 10-month-old son Otto as she spoke about how CHIP has helped her family.
She said losing CHIP could negatively impact children, facing them to lose potential.
“Health care is a basic necessity,” she said.
And she said such programs keep the integrity of a community together.
“Without CHIP why would families stay here?” she asked.
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.