By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Governor Hickenlooper is sounding an alarm as federal funding for CHP – The Children’s Health Insurance Program – dries up.

The program provides health insurance for low-income kids. Lawmakers have been saying for months that they’re confident CHP will be reauthorized, but it expired in September and money runs out in Colorado at the end of January.

chip5 Lawmakers Express Support For Continuing CHP Program

(credit: CBS)

Right now, funding for the program is being included in the larger government spending bill. Sources tell CBS4 the House will vote on a two-week extension of that bill Wednesday, which means an ugly end of year budget battle with children’s’ health insurance caught in the middle.

child doctor visit Lawmakers Express Support For Continuing CHP Program

(credit: CBS)

“Frankly, it’s immoral to use the lives of children as a bargaining chip,” says Democratic Congressman Jared Polis. He’s signed onto separate legislation to reauthorize the program. some 75,000 children in Colorado will lose health coverage if Congress doesn’t act.

chip3 Lawmakers Express Support For Continuing CHP Program

Rep. Jared Polis speaks with CBS4. (credit: CBS)

Governor Hickenlooper says he’s trying to get a sense of which kids have conditions that could be life-threatening if the program expires and how much it would cost to cover them. Polis says that’s analysis no politician should have to do.

“The net effect if President Trump and the Republican Congress fail to reauthorize CHP is it’ll put life and death decisions over kids in the hands of politicians in states across the country,” Polis said. “That’s not where those decisions should be. Families should be able to make sure their kids are able to get the life-saving treatment they need regardless of their economic circumstance.”

The state of Colorado mailed letters last week telling families they need to start shopping for other insurance. Congressman Mike Coffman among the Republicans who support the program. It’s been bipartisan since its inception nearly 20 years ago.

chip4 Lawmakers Express Support For Continuing CHP Program

Rep. Mike Coffman seaks with CBS4. (credit: CBS)

“It’s a bad situation Congress has gotten itself into. I worry about these families and the anxiety they might be going through,” Coffman said. “What we want to do is make sure those resources are there for them.”

Both Coffman and Polis also worry the program will be used as leverage in the budget battle.

“This program is so important,” Coffman said, “that it has to be continued.”

It would cost the state nearly $160 million dollars to continue the program and, at this point, there is no contingency plan.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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