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Thousands Of Utah Families Are Waiting As CHIP Funding Shrinks


The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, provides low-cost health coverage for around 20,000 kids in Utah each year. Senator Orrin Hatch helped create it in 1997 with Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. It covers children in families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who can’t afford private health insurance. This past September, federal funding for CHIP expired and Congress still hasn’t reauthorized it. KUER's Erik Neumann recently spoke with Lincoln Nehring, the CEO of Voices for Utah Children, to find out what’s at stake. 

Q: Is there reason to worry that [CHIP] is not going to be reauthorized?

Nehring: We don't want to unduly make families worry that CHIP is not going to be there, but the reality is Congress needs to act. And they haven't done so. Utah's families probably won't be the first families to lose coverage. There are other states that are in much more peril than Utah is but Congress has really run out of time. They need to move now to make sure families don't lose coverage in Utah. 

Q: What kind of support is there for CHIP from the Utah delegation?

Nehring: Senator Hatch has promised that before he leaves office in 2018 that CHIP will get done, that this is a priority for him. For the rest of our congressional delegation, while they have not been champions, everyone has spoken in favor of CHIP.  I think you see this everywhere. It is rare to find someone who does not support the CHIP program. 

Q: If it's so widely accepted, why is it stalled right now?

Nehring: That is the question that we ask about Congress around so many issues. This is a program that has had wide bipartisan support for years. It doesn't have that same political baggage that many of the things that Congress is debating today have. But unfortunately all that other stuff, I think, is keeping CHIP from moving forward. 

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