Utah officials say they will end a health program for poor children if Congress doesn’t provide new funding

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who helped create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, vows that new money is on the way, though Saturday deadline won’t be reached.

Utah health officials submitted their intentions to close an insurance program for children in low- to middle-income families if Congress does not reauthorize its funding.

The state’s Division of Medicaid and Health Financing sent a letter Sept. 15 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which outlined its plan to close its Children’s Health Insurance Program if Congress fails to renew its funding by its deadline Saturday. Without the necessary federal dollars, division spokeswoman Kolbi Young said the program’s funding will run out by the end of the year.

The federal and state program provides wellness exams, immunizations, doctors visits, prescriptions and other forms of health care to nearly 20,000 children in Utah. The kids typically come from families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, the federal and state insurance program for low-income people.

In 2016, CMS data showed that CHIP provided health insurance for more than 9 million children nationwide.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, teamed up with Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy to create CHIP in 1997. The longtime Republican lawmaker has touted the bipartisan effort that’s provided health coverage for vulnerable children as a “moral responsibility.”

On Sept. 12, the Senate Finance Committee, which Hatch leads, announced an agreement to continue funding the plan for another five years, though it has not gone to a vote.

On Thursday night, the senator’s spokesman Matt Whitlock, responded to the Utah Department of Health’s statement noting that “Hatch has said a number of times that Congress is going to reauthorize CHIP.”