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Pennsylvania Parents Breathing Sighs Of Relief After CHIP Renewal

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Sarah Boden
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90.5 WESA
Shark Snider, age 3, waits for a flu shot at the Squirrel Hill Health Center in Pittsburgh. Snider is one of 14,000 kids in Allegheny County with health insurance through CHIP.

Parents of 180,000 children across Pennsylvania, including 14,000 kids in Allegheny County, are breathing sighs of relief now that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been renewed for six years.

"I was probably on the verge of crying...crying out of happiness," said Jill Wilson, 40, of Verona, describing her reaction when she heard CHIP had been renewed. 

The mother of a 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, Wilson said she would have had to put both her kids on her employer's insurance, which would have cost about $300 a month in premiums. The plan has a higher deductible and co-pays. 

"It would have put us into a pretty tight spot," she said. "Kids are not cheap. We already pay for daycare and extra-curriculars."

CHIP funding lapsed in October, but Congress didn’t reauthorize the program until this week after a brief government shutdown. States were set to run out of money at different times; Pennsylvania said its funding was going to expire in late March.

“At the Department of Human Services, we were just days away from sending notices to families letting them know their CHIP coverage was being terminated,” said acting Human Services secretary Teresa Miller in an emailed statement.

Many are wondering why it took Congress so long to renew the program when it's enjoyed a history of bipartisan support.

“It never should have gotten to this point where it was that much on a wire,” said Rev. Sally Jo Snyder, director of advocacy and consumer engagement at the Pittsburgh-based Consumer Health Coalition. “Let me stress, its health care for children.”

Snyder said she’s also concerned that federal funding for community health centers, which provide medical, dental and behavioral health care for many low income people, still has not been reauthorized by Congress. Funding for the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers also has not be renewed.