Congress Left For the Year Without Re-Authorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Sixteen states are in danger of running out of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program — despite its wide popularity in Congress.

It’s hard to believe that any government would jeopardize the welfare of vulnerable children, yet that seems to be happening now that the Republicans control all levers of government. It’s not that the GOP doesn’t care about the welfare of children, but that internal squabbling and bickering about how to fund an important bill is creating anxiety for the millions who rely upon it.

The program in question is the Children’s Health Insurance Program — or CHIP — which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1997. The legislation was pushed into law by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who reached across the aisle to partner with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (UT), to finally protect the most vulnerable people in American society.

In all, about nine million children are enrolled in CHIP and, for about 1 in 8 American kids, it’s the only health coverage they have.

Now CHIP is unlikely to be funded during this session of Congress, since the GOP was too focused on tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations to take care of this vital program. Many states, including Colorado and Connecticut, are already informing patients that their healthcare is about to end. Two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins, have indicated that it won’t be tackled until next year.

The result? A nightmare.

According to Vox, as many as two million kids are losing access to affordable healthcare in 25 states. Alabama is freezing enrollment starting January 1. Connecticut may shutter the program entirely. In Colorado, pregnant mothers are being told they won’t have coverage when their babies are due.

It’s hard to see how the GOP is doing any other than losing votes for the 2018 elections. The program is wildly popular among patients and providers.

“CHIP is probably one of the most successful government programs we’ve enacted in the last couple of decades,” says Timothy McBride, a professor of health economics at Washington University in St. Louis. As chairman of that state’s Medicaid oversight committee, McBride also oversees CHIP.

He argues that the program applies an old adage — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — that should garner bipartisan support.

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