Congress’s Failure To Fund CHIP Endangers Kids

By on November 27, 2017

While the House and Senate try to show that they can get something done by introducing two terrible tax bills, a critical social safety net health program for children has long passed its September 30 deadline for funding reauthorization.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, widely known as CHIP, provides health insurance coverage through federal grants to the states for nine million kids (and nearly 400,000 pregnant women) whose families exceed the threshold for Medicaid yet cannot afford private insurance. The 20-year-old program has enjoyed wide bipartisan support.

Yet at this point the inability of Congress to address this critical matter has reached a crisis point — or, as the Denver Post put it rather bluntly in the headline of an editorial on the issue on Friday, “If CHIP dies, children will, too.”

“Things are now especially dire for Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and North Carolina – all of which are expected to run out of CHIP funds by next month. Thirty-one states will likely exhaust their funding by March 2018,” Think Progress reported last Monday.

“We are very concerned, and the reason is that Congress hasn’t shown a strong ability to get stuff done,” said Bruce Lesley, president of Washington, D.C.-based First Focus, a child and family advocacy organization, to the Chicago Tribune. “And the administration is completely out, has not even uttered a syllable on the issue. How this gets resolved is really unclear, and states are beginning to hit deadlines.”

House Republicans introduced a bill to refinance CHIP for the next five years that passed along party lines. But it did so at the expense of initiatives to address opioid addiction, diabetes and heart disease, youth suicide, and other public health problems, and no further action has been taken. President Trump’s 2018 budget proposed seeks to reduce CHIP funding by billions over two years and reduce state eligibility for federal matching funds.

Unless something is done soon, the GOP and Trump administration won’t be just saying “let them eat cake.” They’ll be allowing sick underprivileged kids to suffer and die.