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Richard Piatt reporting The Governor today signed a bill that will free up enough money to give 4,000 additional kids health and dental insurance starting July.
It's scary how vulnerable many low-income families are in Utah: One serious illness for a child and a family could be thrown into bankruptcy.
That's why this funding is such a big deal to so many people.
A waiting room at the doctor's office can be full of anxiety for parents. While the kids are coloring, parents can sit, terrified at what their visit is going to cost. Even minor checkups can add up fast. And for large families, health insurance can be too expensive.
That's why so many Utah families use government-funded Children's Health Insurance Program--CHIP.
With eight kids, Sam Charter could have faced disaster when one of his sons got bad news.
Sam Charter/Children enrolled in CHIP: "IF WE HADN'T HAD CHIP WHEN MY SON FOUND OUT HE HAD DIABETES A WHILE AGO, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME CLOSE TO LOOSING THE HOUSE. "
That kind of story is only part of why this bill signing is significant. In the midst of a budget crisis, the Legislature doled out $1.5 million more to CHIP this year to fund dental coverage and 4,000 more Utah kids.
Preventitive dental coverage was not included in the past. And it comes to Utah's CHIP program even as other states--also in money crisis--are not as generous.
Chad Westover/CHIP Director: "THERE ARE STATES WHO ARE ACTUALLY CUTTING THEIR PROGRAMS BACK BECAUSE OF MONEY PROBLEMS. AND IT'S A GREAT VOTE OF CONFIDENCE ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEIGLSATURE TO SAY THAT THIS IS IMPORTANT."
Families need to apply to qualify for benefits after July first. And the state health department is expecting the 4,000 openings to go fast. That's because the need is go great, and the cost of health care just keeps going up.