Mother who relies on CHIP for her children speaks out as funding deadline looms

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Dakota Flores and her children, Harmonie and Tyler 

CBS News

Democratic Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones stressed the importance of refunding the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, during his victory speech Tuesday night. Federal funding for the program expired in September and that will affect some states by the end of this year.

Dakota Flores is a single mother of four in San Antonio. Two of her kids, 13-year-old Tyler and 11-year-old Harmonie rely on CHIP. Tyler has severe ADHD and takes medication daily to help him concentrate. Harmonie suffers from vision loss and goes to the eye doctor several times a year. 

But under CHIP, their care costs $50 a month.
 
Flores told CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca that she has "absolutely" seen the benefits with the CHIP services.

"My son is in AP courses. He got best baseline, honor band, and choir," Flores said. "Those are things he could never focus on."

"How would your kids' development be without that program?" Villafranca asked.

"My daughter wouldn't be able to see. She wouldn't get a new prescription every time her vision changes," Flores said.
 
As of now, the program's funds in Texas will run out at the end of January unless additional money comes through.
 
"I'm completely worried. I don't sleep," Flores said.

CHIP, which started during Bill Clinton's presidency in 1997, now helps nearly nine million children without health insurance.

"This is literally a life and death program," television host Jimmy Kimmel said on his show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" 

Kimmel has widely criticized Congress for not re-authorizing the program.

"Why hasn't CHIP been funded? If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now," Kimmel said.

While CHIP has bipartisan support, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who cosponsors the program, said lawmakers can't agree on how to fund it.

"Some people feel that the expenditure level that we have is too high. Now obviously I don't believe that," Grassley said.

Last year, the state and federal government spent $15.6 billion on CHIP.

"What would you tell the leaders in Washington, D.C., about funding this program?" Villafranca asked Flores.

"This is for our kids, this is for their future. It's the most important thing. How could you take this away from the kids?" Flores responded.

A budget for the program may be tacked onto the year end spending bill. The deadline for that bill is a week from Friday.