BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana governor joined 11 other governors from across the country Tuesday is calling on Congress to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In a letter, the bipartisan group of state leaders asked federal lawmakers to act "as quickly as possible" to reauthorize the program. "We believe covering children and pregnant women without disruption is one thing we can all agree on," the letter reads.
The Bayou State's version of the program, known as LaCHIP, is responsible for health coverage for roughly 122,000 kids statewide. Those children stand to lose coverage beginning in February if Congress does not renew CHIP. One of those who could be impacted is Lewis Thigpen. At just 9-months-old, his life so far has not been easy.
"The flap that was moving the food between the stomach and intestines was not working," said his mom, Kristina.
At just a few weeks old, doctors had to operate, but that was only the beginning. "At least twice a week, I've been back and forth between hospitals, doctors, doctors, hospitals," Thigpen said.
Without CHIP, Thigpen says she doesn't know how she could afford his life-saving treatments, but now, that's a reality her family may have to face.
Governor John Bel Edwards indicated he remains confident Congress will come together in the end and renew the program. However, he says his administration is looking for a backup plan, including shifting money in the state budget. "We'd have to look at all the programs we're delivering within the Department of Health and see if there's some funding that should be made available to CHIP that we'd have to move from other sources," he said.
But where such funding will be found remains unclear, particularly with the state's ongoing fiscal problems.
Thigpen, meanwhile, is asking Congress to think of her son. "It's not his fault. It's not my fault. So why do we have to be punished?" she asked.
Read the letter the governors sent to Congress below.