Health Care For 9 Million Kids Is At Risk After Congress Let CHIP Funding Expire

Sunday isn't just the first day of October. It's also the first day that the Children’s Health Insurance Program — also known as CHIP — is technically not authorized to run, since the program first began in 1997. As such, millions of kids' health insurance is at risk as CHIP funding expired on Saturday, and the future of the program still hangs in the balance.

Right now, there's no vote to reestablish the program’s $15 billion funding appropriation expected for at least a week, according to the Los Angeles Times. And many fear that estimate is generous, and the vote could actually be put off for even longer.

So what is CHIP, exactly, and why would a program that sounds so crucial be left to expire the way the insurance program did on Saturday? It sounds like it fell through the cracks as a result of recent, unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. So even though that particular health care debate is over — for now, at least — the fight over the ACA had a ripple effect on other health care programs that millions of kids may now be affected by.

CHIP reduced the uninsured rate among kids to 5 percent, down from 14 percent, over the two decades its been in place, the Los Angeles Times reported. Now that it's technically expired, what does the possible loss of the program mean for families and children who depend on it?

CHIP has provided low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, according to The Washington Post. It was created under a 1997 law — one that passed with bipartisan support — during the administration of President Bill Clinton. Sure feels like it's been awhile since anything health care-related has passed with support from both sides of the aisle, huh?

CHIP provided coverage for kids in families with low or "moderate" incomes, as well as coverage for pregnant women, The Washington Post reported. The last time it was authorized was in 2015, and it was reportedly due to be renewed by Saturday.

But Congress allowed the CHIP deadline to pass without acting on it, possibly because they were so busy trying to repeal and replace Obamacare instead. With so much focus on the Graham-Cassidy bill — which didn't even lead to a vote in the end — two weeks of crucial time was taken up before the deadline that could have been spent on efforts in the Senate to fund CHIP instead, HuffPost noted.

Since the deadline passed with no action on CHIP, many states might have to reduce or shut down their children’s health programs until the funding is restored once more, according to the Los Angeles Times. States still have some money for CHIP available to use, but Congress needs to act soon to restore the program or those funds will run dry, The Washington Post reported. Many states, as well as the District of Columbia, are expected to run out of CHIP funding as soon as the end of this year, according to a government report.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said last week that an “overwhelming number of states have some money to continue to spend” on CHIP, according to Business Insider. As for when lawmakers need to act to reinstate funding, Grassley said:

So think that in other words, there’s a few days leeway — there might be a few weeks leeway. But I can’t be specific because I don’t know but it’s too bad it’s not done right now.

So what can people to do get Congress to act more quickly to reauthorize CHIP? Get your phones ready, because it's time, yet again, to call up your representatives.

Go ahead and find out how to contact your representative, if you don't already have their information saved in your phone from calling about anything else over the past few months. Let them know that CHIP needs to be reauthorized ASAP, in order to protect the millions of kids who benefit from the program.

Then, go on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media platform you happen to use, and let people know that the deadline to fund CHIP passed, and what that means for children and families across the country. A lot of people may not know how vital this program is, and that it's important for them to speak up in support of it. Right now, it's everyone's job is to make others aware.

CHIP covers everything from checkups, to immunizations, to emergency services, and so much more. It's past time for elected officials to make sure those services continue to be available to millions of kids who need them.

Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.