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CHIP Funding Vital For Idaho Children's Well-Being, Advocates Say

A last-minute deal in Congress to provide short-term funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program has done little to alleviate stress for states and parents in the New Year. 

The deal gave the program, known as CHIP, funding through March but no long-term solution for states. Nationwide, it helps cover 9 million children. 

Liz Woodruff, assistant director of Idaho Voices for Children, says between 22,000 and 35,000 Gem State children rely on CHIP. She says health care has long-lasting and positive impacts on children.

"What we know is that when kids have access to health care, they're more likely to be well, they're more likely to attend school regularly, they're more likely to do well in school, they're more likely to graduate from school, they're more likely to go on to college, and they're more likely to be off public assistance as adults and be productive in the workforce," she said.

Woodruff says the program's uncertain future is making Idaho families anxious. She says the uncertainty also puts state lawmakers in an awkward position as they head into this year's legislative session. 

The bill has received bipartisan support since it was authored in 1997 by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Woodruff says Congress should have renewed CHIP at the end of September when it expired.

"Unfortunately, there was partisan bickering over the tax cuts, over what was happening with other kinds of health care policy, and we really think that Congress and especially Idaho's members of Congress need to put people before politics and do the right thing and fully fund CHIP for five years," she states.

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have disagreed on how to fund the program. 

Nationally, CHIP services in 2016 cost more than $15.5 billion s and more than 90 percent of that money came from the federal government, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation

In Idaho, the federal government provided all of the state's $75 million in CHIP funds.