‘Tis the season for the sniffles.
As the mom of three kids – two preschoolers and a baby – we see our fair share of colds, stomach bugs, and other wintertime illnesses. It’s simply impossible to keep everyone healthy year round.
But even when I’m up to my elbows in tissues and chicken noodle soup, I am thankful that I can take my kids to the doctors when necessary. Maybe the toddler needs medicine to stop wheezing during a bad case of croup, or the baby has to go to the Emergency Room for a high fever. Our health insurance means that no matter how unpleasant childhood illnesses are, we don’t have to worry about the financial stress that can too often accompany them.
But the 23,000 Montanan children who receive insurance through Healthy Montana Kids, also known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), might soon lose that stability. Back in September, Congress allowed funding for CHIP to expire and has yet to reach a compromise. Some states are already starting to run out of money to fund their programs, Alabama will freeze CHIP enrollment in two weeks if Congress does not extend funding, and Montana will run out by the end of January.
So what’s the hold up on renewing funding for this historically bipartisan program? Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to pay for it. The current “continuing resolution” bill in the House funds CHIP by shortening the grace period for people who miss an insurance payment to sign up again from 90 days to 30. This change would result in nearly 700,000 people losing their insurance across the country. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is no way to fund such a vital program.
Last week, all three of my kids came down with colds simultaneously and I crossed my fingers that we would all be healthy before the holidays. No kid wants to be sick while waiting for Santa, lighting the menorah, or ringing in the New Year. And no parent wants to worry about how they will pay their bills if those sniffles turn into something more serious.
Before heading home for the holidays this Friday, Congress needs to give families the gift of security and fully fund CHIP. Montana families can’t keep waiting.
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.