Funding CHIP Called "Investment" in ND Children's Future

Funding CHIP Called "Investment" in ND Children's Future Click to Enlarge

BISMARCK, N.D. - A recent 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, CHIP helps cover 9 million children. About 2,800 North Dakota children have coverage because of the program.

Karen Olson, program director for North Dakota Kids Count, says health insurance is an integral part of future prosperity for children.

"We need to ensure that children have the opportunity to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively, and this largely depends on making sure that children are healthy - all children," she stresses. "So programs such as CHIP provide that necessary coverage for working families that are struggling."

Olson says CHIP, which is known as Healthy Steps in North Dakota, helps families in the state that make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

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

Olson says North Dakota already is seeing the number of children without insurance grow.

Currently, about 8 percent of children in the state don't have coverage.

She says the data is clear that insuring children makes them healthier throughout life.

"They're more likely to be healthy in childhood, which means they're more likely healthy as adults and that's what I think we need to focus on," she points out. "It's an investment and we will save money in the future by having healthy children."

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 and more than 90 percent of that money came from the federal government, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In North Dakota, the federal government provided more than $19 million of the state's $22 million in CHIP funds.

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