Children’s health insurance funded until 2023

Lewistown School District Superintendent Thom Peck is shown in his office during an interview with the News-Argus last November. Photo by Doreen Heinz

Over 23,000 Montana children are no longer in danger of losing their health insurance, thanks to a bill passed by Congress in late January. A six-year extension of the Child Health Insurance Program was rolled into a bill passed to end a threeday government shutdown and fund the federal government until Feb. 8.

CHIP is a federal program created in 1997 to provide health insurance for children in families that do not qualify for Medicaid, but also cannot afford private coverage.

In Montana, the program is rolled into the larger Healthy Montana Kids program managed by the Department of Public Health and Human Services. The department’s public information officer, Jon Ebelt, reported last year the state’s funding was set to expire in January. Congress extended CHIP funding until March in early 2018 before passing the six-year extension on Jan. 22.

“We did not have to actually send out letters to families, or disrupt coverage in any way,” Ebelt wrote in an email to the News-Argus.

A funding lapse would have been a major disruption to Montana’s CHIP services, which the state planned to fund with $1.3 million in state funds and $109 million in federal funds for the 2018 fiscal year. DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan is glad the extension passed.

“CHIP provides peace of mind for so many Montana families because it ensures thousand of Montana kids can get the health care they need,” she said.

Lewistown School District Superintendent Thom Peck is also happy for the funding extension. Last November, he stated some of the physical therapists, flu shot opportunities and immunization clinics hosted in Lewistown schools were CHIP-reimbursed.

Now, with CHIP funding in place, Peck believes students will be able to perform to the best of their abilities.

“When something like that is on the chopping block, it does affect kids because [it affects] the health of the kids,” he said.

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