If You Depend on CHIP for Your Children’s Insurance, You Need to Read This

TC Bell sits with his two daughters Dagny, 8 and Emma, 4 before they get dressed for school
TC Bell sits with his two daughters Dagny, 8 and Emma, 4 before they get dressed for school, at their home in Denver, Nov. 28, 2017. Bell's daughters are recipients of the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP. Tatiana Flowers/AP Photo

The future of a program designed to help families afford health care for their kids may be in danger.

For the past two decades, the Children’s Health Insurance Program — better known as CHIP —  has been serving families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to cover private health insurance costs.

CHIP has been operating mainly on federal funding, but the program ran out of those funds in September, CNNMoney reported.

The good news? CHIP has bipartisan support, and Congress is working on a reauthorization bill to fund the program for the next five years. According to CNNMoney, the bill has passed in the House, but the Senate hasn’t made much progress on it yet.

The bad news? Congress is unsure how it will fund CHIP going forward, and money needs to be allocated soon to keep the program — which reportedly cost $15.6 billion in fiscal year 2016 — afloat.

Individual states have been using their unspent allotments and grant money to keep CHIP operational, CNNMoney reported, but that Band-aid isn’t going to hold for very long.

CNNMoney reports more than one million children could be left uninsured if the federal government doesn’t step in soon with funding.

Even worse is that there’s not much affected parents can do.

“They can’t really prepare for this,” Genevieve Kenney, co-director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, told CNNMoney. “There’s not much in their control that can minimize the fallout.”

And even if the federal funding becomes available, this period of uncertainty could have parents questioning the stability of the program.

Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, told The New York Times the notices states send out about CHIP’s funding dilemma “can really affect the trust” families have in the program.

“So many families still don’t realize this is coming,” she said, “and the few I’ve informed, they go immediately into a state of alarm.”

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.