FAIRBANKS — Permanent funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal program providing health insurance for children in lower income families, ran out in September. Since then, Congress has been struggling to find a fix as the health coverage of nearly 9 million children across the country hangs in the balance.
Through a temporary spending bill in December, Congress funded CHIP through the end of March. When this funding runs out, the issue will need to be addressed again, either in the form of permanent funding or another temporary spending bill.
Alaska’s congressional delegation recently expressed unanimous support for the program and is pushing for a permanent solution.
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young said he places a lot of importance on the program, especially for the Alaska children helped through the state’s version of CHIP, Denali KidCare.
“This is a critical program that serves thousands of Alaskans, and I remain committed to finding a comprehensive and long-term solution for it,” Young said.
Young said he feels Congress has a lot to work on this year.
“With each new year, Congress has new and recurring issues we must work on to deliver relief to our country, which range from funding our military to improving our roads to reforming our health care system,” Young said. “One of my priorities will be to work with my colleagues to develop new transportation and infrastructure projects, which will help both Americans and businesses across the country.”
While Alaska Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski were unable to be reached for direct comment, the senators’ offices confirmed their intentions to secure permanent funding for the program.
“As a previous supporter of the CHIP program, Sen. Sullivan fully supports its reauthorization,” a spokesman for Sullivan said. “He is committed to working with his colleagues to provide long-term reauthorizing and funding for the program that is vital for so many vulnerable children in the Denali KidCare program and across the country.”
Murkowski’s office noted that though the senator is happy that Congress worked to extend funding for the program through March, she remains committed that Congress needs to pass a long-term funding plan.
“Sen. Murkowski is a co-sponsor of the KIDS Act, which reauthorizes the program for 5 years,” Murkowski’s communication director said. “She knows the importance of CHIP and will work with her colleagues on a plan for ensuring funding for CHIP continues.”
The Senate went back to work Wednesday; the House is scheduled to begin work today.
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.