Governors Association leader makes plea for CHIP funding

The top Republican leader of the National Governors Association on Tuesday made an urgent plea for Congress to extend a soon-to-expire government program that helps millions of children gain insurance.

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah) urged Congress to preserve the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, during the annual “State of the States” address.

“Congress should act quickly to reauthorize and fund CHIP,” Herbert said from the National Press Club.

The 27-year-old program is reauthorized until 2019 under ObamaCare, but only funded through September of next year. Some lawmakers argue the program is not needed under the healthcare law, which guaranteed coverage to millions.

But Herbert said there would be wide gaps in coverage across the country if CHIP expired.

“Governors believe CHIP should be reauthorized until those children and pregnant women have access to other affordable options,” he said.

The program provides coverage to about 8 million children annually and has been praised by lawmakers of both parties.

Still, members of Congress have failed to take steps to fund the program despite urgent pleas from governors who say they need to know immediately whether the program will end.

While some of the children currently enrolled could now find other options under ObamaCare, the program’s coverage tends to be more generous with deductibles and copays, as well as wider doctor networks, than cheaper plans on the exchanges.