Before Congress left on their holiday break, they provided a patch for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that extended coverage through March.

Jennifer Calder with Montana Kids Count said 23,000 children could lose health insurance funding altogether.

“Currently, about one in three Montana children have health insurance thanks to public investment,” said Calder. “There are three components to provide coverage for children. One is Medicaid, another is what has been a separate CHIP program, and the Medicaid expansion which is funded through CHIP. We do know in Montana that CHIP does cover about 23,000 children a year with health insurance. That Medicaid expansion that’s funded through CHIP covers approximately 7,000 children, so we’re looking at about 30,000 children in total who receive coverage through CHIP funding.”

Calder said the future is murky for children’s health insurance if CHIP is not extended.

“If CHIP doesn’t get fully funded, we don’t know exactly what will happen,” she said. “The 23,000 currently receiving funding could lose their coverage,’ she said. “Families could have to go to the marketplace or trim their budgets around food, or it could also leave several thousand children without any insurance at all. When the Montana legislature voted to accept Medicaid expansion and get expanded coverage for those 7,000 children that would come through federal funding. If those monies don’t come, we’re still committed to providing coverage for those kids, so the state could be responsible for coming up with the funding.”

Calder said Montanans should be aware of the children’s health insurance situation and make their feelings known to their representatives in Helena and in Washington, D.C.