MUSKEGON, Mich. -- The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has helped raise children's healthcare coverage to its current all-time high of 95 percent nationwide. If Congress doesn't act, its funding will run out by March.
CHIP provides low-cost health insurance to children in working families earning low to modest income, and covers approximately 9 million kids from each state from birth to the age of 19. Last week Congress passed a short-term funding patch extending the program until March, while parties continue to disagree on how to fund a clean five-year renewal plan.
"It’s really a good step for folks who appreciate that program and utilize it to reach out to their federal lawmakers," said K.P. Pelleran, United Way of the Lakeshore director of advocacy, planning and grants.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, CHIP provides healthcare to about 116,000 Michigan children including: kids up to the age of 21 and pregnant women living in areas affected by Flint's lead poisoned water, and mothers who are undocumented. MDHHS operates the programs including MI Child which receive funds from CHIP. In Michigan, MI Child is a Medicaid expansion program since January 2016.
If funding runs out, many children will lose preventative care and healthcare premiums could rise.
"If you had a strep situation in a family, it may be something that antibiotics could cure," said Pelleran. "Left unattended it could lead to organ failure and even death. So this is a preventative program, and we surely want to make sure that children have that access to prevention."
FOX 17 reached out to West Michigan's members of Congress and heard from Communications Director Tom Wilbur, who wrote on behalf on U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R - Kalamazoo: "Fred has always supported CHIP and believes it should continue to be funded, in a bipartisan way, long term for the security of low income Children here in Michigan and across the country."
Nationwide, according to HealthCare.gov, Medicaid and CHIP collectively cover 39 percent of children's healthcare.