Thousands of children in Pa. could be uninsured if CHIP not renewed

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A health insurance program that provides low-cost coverage for millions of children across the country is in jeopardy.

Teresa Miller, the acting secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, said, "It is a little beyond me why we're not seeing this bill get through and get through easily because there's no opposition."

The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is federally funded and has bipartisan support.

But Congress has yet to renew it.

CHIP is income-based and some families pay all or a portion of the premium - like the Staz family.

Diane Staz's two children are insured through CHIP.

Staz said, "It has made us not have to delay services because of high deductibles and because of co-pays."

When her son Oliver was two years old, he had a febrile seizure and went to the ER.

Staz said, "The bill from that would have bankrupted us. Both my husband and I are independent contractors and we don't have insurance through an employer, so CHIP has been really important for our family."

Her children are just two of 176,000 kids in Pennsylvania who are insured through the program.

If CHIP is not renewed, it would be highly unlikely for the state to come up with the $400 million to fund the program, especially with the budget deficit.

Miller said, "If Congress doesn't take action, we're going to be left with winding down the program. And there are things we would need to start doing literally in a matter of weeks even though we have funding out for a couple more months."

If it's not renewed, Miller said, "I don't know that they could afford to put their kids on their insurance. So in a lot of those cases I think those kids would end up uninsured."