SPOKANE, Wash. -- A crucial health care program for children is running out of money nationwide.
Federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP is dwindling fast. The program covers about 9 million children from lower income households in the U.S.
There are 22,000 kids in Idaho on CHIP and close to 60,000 in Washington. A spokesperson with the Washington State Health Care Authority said they have funding to continue the program through the end of February. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said they have enough funding to tide them over until the end of March.
CHIP is federally funded, but administered by each individual state. Right now, families enrolled in CHIP pay a premium of $20 to $30 a month for each child with no deductibles or co-pays.
The federal funding for the program began drying up back in October. Congress pumped $2.85 billion into the program in December to temporarily extend it through March. Some states could run out of money sooner.
Better Health Together helps people sign up for programs like CHIP. Navigator Program Manager for Better Health Together Curtis Fackler said Washington families could pay more for health insurance if CHIP is not re-upped. He said one option is parents could enroll their kids on their own health care plans.
"The problem with that is a lot of companies now do not pay for dependent coverage. So it's not uncommon for it to be a $150 to $200 per child for coverage," Fackler said.
The family would not be eligible for tax credits. Current insurance rates in Washington show the lowest cost for a 16-year-old is $161 month and the lowest cost for a 6-year-old is $144 a month.
Another option would be if parents have insurance through the exchange and are getting tax credits they can add children to their policies. The out of pocket cost would not change because the child's premium will be paid for by tax credits. They also will have to pay co-pays and deductibles.
"If you have a child that's asthmatic or they have other health issues and they are going to the doctor all the time, this could be a real hardship on those families," Fackler explained.
In Idaho, both of those are options would be available as well. But it may not be necessary in Idaho or Washington. Both states are required by law to provide health insurance for low income children. If Congress does not continue CHIP funding, the states will have to take over and find a way to get the money.
Officials with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Washington State Health Care Authority said they are working with state and federal lawmakers. They plan on doing everything they can to make sure Congress re-authorizes CHIP funding.