J. Scott Applewhite, AP
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is surrounded by reporters as he walks to a closed-door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn, as they struggle with a tax code overhaul.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a long-standing, trusted children’s program. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is one of the grandfathers of this bipartisan health insurance program he established 20 years ago and continues to champion today.

Together, Medicaid and CHIP provide critical health coverage to over 200,000 children in Utah, across both urban and rural areas. These programs work hand in hand and have helped Utah achieve a historic number of covered kids — 94 percent of Utah kids have health insurance. Together, Medicaid and CHIP are a lifeline for working families, providing affordable health coverage for kids whose parents aren’t offered — or can’t afford — health insurance.

But now the future of CHIP — which covers 19,000 kids in Utah — is at risk. Federal funding for CHIP is set to expire Sept. 30. If funding is not renewed by then, Congress will put families in a lurch and create significant programmatic and budgetary uncertainty for our state CHIP program.

As kids head back to school, it is a crucial time to engage parents and help them learn about different health insurance options for their families. CHIP is one of the first programs low-income parents learn about for their children. Parents pay premiums and their kids get a guarantee of care and coverage, including regular well-child visits and dental coverage. When kids are healthy and their medical needs are met, they do better in school. What’s more, parents can get ahead in their jobs because they don’t have to miss work as frequently to care for a sick child.

The hardworking families that rely on CHIP coverage deserve to know that this program will be there for them. No parent should have to live in fear of their child getting sick or injured. We can’t afford Congress to delay action on CHIP — Utah families need to know their kids’ coverage is secure.

Recently, Hatch, along with Oregon Senator Ronald Wyden, proposed a bipartisan agreement for CHIP that includes a five-year funding extension. This proposed extension would assure that Utah can effectively and responsibly run its CHIP program and kids can get the consistent coverage they need. We thank Hatch for his leadership on this issue and his commitment to children’s health and well-being.

We urge our Congressional leaders to take action and pass — without delay — this bipartisan CHIP extension. Now is the time for Congress to prioritize children’s care, so no child loses coverage and we can continue to build on the historic progress we have made for children’s health.

Charles W. Pruitt, MD, is president of the Utah chapter for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Jessie Mandle is a senior health policy analyst, for Voices for Utah Children.