Thousands of Tennessee kids, pregnant women hope Congress acts on healthcare plan

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(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Washington works on a tax bill in time for Christmas, between 73,000 and 100,000 Tennessee kids and pregnant women likely hope Congress acts just as soon on their healthcare plan.

It’s a program often called CHIPS, short for Children’s Health Insurance Program. Now, there’s uncertainty surrounding it after the program was not re-authorized when its renewal date slipped by Congress earlier this fall.

“People have to realize that if that does get re-authorized, we will provide less service,” said Governor Bill Haslam Monday morning when questions about CHIPS were asked by a reporter.

“Less service” as the governor puts it, means uncertainty for the lower income Tennessee kids and pregnant women who qualify for the program the state calls CoverKids.

It’s separate from the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, which puts the number of people on CoverKids at 73,000.

Both Republican Tennessee U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Democrat Congressman Jim Cooper have indicated in news releases that the number of people on CoverKids is more than 100,000.

With either number, the governor said he was “concerned” about the inaction from Washington for renewing the program.

“I would like to see that resolved,” Haslam said. “We are at the tip of the spear when it comes to serving people with that program.

Privately, lawmakers have indicated that funding for CHIPS is expected through the end of year and eventually will be re-authorized, but when is making tens of thousands of Tennesseans nervous.