(HELENA) U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock are calling on Congress to extend funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Tester and Bullock held a news conference at the Montana State Capitol Friday, along with families who benefit from CHIP funding.
The appropriations for CHIP expired Sept. 30, after lawmakers failed to pass an extension of the program.
In Montana, CHIP funding pays for the Healthy Montana Kids program, which offers free or low-cost health insurance for more than 24,000 children in the state. Voters overwhelmingly passed the ballot initiative that created the program in 2008.
“This isn’t a partisan issue in Montana, and it really shouldn’t be anywhere in America,” said Bullock.
Kelsey Whitby, of Whitefish, said she relies on Healthy Montana Kids to provide care for her ten-month-old son Otto.
“Without CHIP, we’ll be losing potential for all 24,000 of those kids to make a difference,” she said. “Some will not grow up healthy; some will not achieve their potential.”
Montana leaders say the program has enough money to keep operating through early 2018, but not beyond, if the federal government doesn’t approve more funding.
“Montana, candidly, does not have the money to pick up the federal government’s tab,” Bullock said. “Congressional inaction could likely shut down Montana’s program.”
Tester is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill that would extend CHIP funding for the next five years. So far, no action has been taken on the bill.
“This money quit coming the end of September,” Tester said. “We need to do it not only for this state, but there’s a lot of states that the program is not working at all because they’ve run out of money.”