'Life or death' insurance program for kids could lose funding in matter of months

Funding lapsed on Sept. 30 and has not been reauthorized by Congress.

Kimmel blasted Congress for letting CHIP run out when so many Americans depend on it.

Kimmel added, “This is literally a life-and-death program for American kids.”

“In the scheme of our national budget, this is a very small piece,” Beers told ABC News. “But it is a small piece that has a tremendous impact on the lives and health of children.”

Ahead, here is what you need to know about the program.

What is CHIP?

CHIP is a program that funds health insurance for the children of working mothers (and pregnant mothers) who make too much money to be covered by Medicaid but earn too little to afford other insurance coverage. It was passed in 1997 under the Clinton administration and has enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception. In 2016, it covered 8.9 million children and pregnant mothers, according to government figures.

Why are people talking about CHIP?

Funding lapsed on Sept. 30 and has not been reauthorized by Congress; this is the longest lapse in funding in the program's history. Many states, including Virginia and Colorado, have had to notify residents that their insurance will be cut off soon, and that they should make contingency plans.

How much does CHIP cost taxpayers?

When analyzed by cost per beneficiary, CHIP costs about $1,750 per child or pregnant mother per year, while Medicare costs about $12,000 per person per year, according to CMS data.

What happens to women and children using CHIP if it isn’t renewed?

Most states expect to run out of funds in one to three months. Families that lose insurance have the option of buying individual insurance, which is prohibitively expensive for many of them. Access to the individual insurance marketplace has been restricted by legislative changes enacted by Congress.

If mothers obtain steady employment, they can sometimes get health insurance from their employer. The other option is to not buy any insurance and to hope that uncovered children do not require medical care. If a child does need expensive care, however, the out-of-pocket costs could be very high.

Why does CHIP matter?

It is crucial that children and pregnant mothers of all income levels be able to access medical care to stay healthy and prevent future illness. If CHIP doesn't receive the funding it needs, it could have serious consequences for working families, Beers said.

“In the U.S., children are insured at historically high rates, and CHIP funding is an important piece of that,” Beers said. “These families are facing a lot of uncertainty about their children’s health care coverage. Imagine you didn’t know what’s going to happen to your child’s insurance in one month. These are working families that don’t have any other options.”