CHIP extension only a temporary fix for Wyoming kids

Cheyenne, Wyo. - Thanks to a short-term extension passed by Congress, nine-million children across the country will have health insurance for a bit longer. That includes 3,300 kids in the state of Wyoming.

Clarifying a story CBS Newschannel 5 brought you Wednesday, Congress passed a short-term extension for the CHIP program. New funding for the program ended September 30 when lawmakers in Washington failed to pass a five-year extension.

That deal is vital according to Kim Deti with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), who says ending the program could be detrimental because it would leave those children with-out health insurance in Wyoming.

“Maybe those families they have a little more money than will allow them to qualify for Wyoming Medicaid,” said Deti, “but they may have trouble affording private insurance for their children.”

CHIP stands for Children's Health Insurance Program and for 20 years it has provided medical, dental and vision coverage for children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid; however, don't have or can't afford private insurance. Since the program began 20 years ago, it’s helped reduce the number of uninsured children from 14 percent to 4.5 percent.

The Wyoming Department of Health says Wyoming only had enough money to fund CHIP until April of 2018. The short-term extension will give the program more time in Wyoming, although exactly how much is not clear.

Deti says “it's primarily a federally funded program since the federal government pays about 88 percent of the cost.”

The department says since the families using CHIP are not eligible for Medicaid there is no ready replacement for them. If at some point congress doesn't do the re authorization, according to Deti, the program would likely end in Wyoming.

Lawmakers estimate the cost at around $15 billion dollars for a five-year extension.