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Congress’s Stalling Means That Millions of Children Risk Losing Their Health Care

Closing the Gap

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997. This bipartisan legislation allocates matching federal funds to states in order to provide health insurance coverage to children whose families can’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford private insurance. CHIP ensures that routine doctor and dental visits are free, and that families won’t have to make copayments that are more than 5% of their household annual income. CHIP benefits vary from state to state, but all recipients are guaranteed comprehensive coverage including immunizations, prescriptions, emergency services, and more. Some states such as Colorado and New Jersey cover pregnant women as well. Since its creation, CHIP has helped lower the percentage of uninsured children from 14 percent in 1997 to 4.5 percent in 2015. It is a life changing program for parents teetering on the edge of poverty, for whom an expensive doctor’s appointment for their son or daughter might mean not making ends meet that month. The program is vital to the wellbeing of millions of children and families.

A Program in Crisis

Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) recently stated during a senate floor debate “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.” These people that Senator Hatch has a “rough time” spending money on happen to be children and pregnant women who are only able to afford quality health coverage through a program called CHIP, which for the first time in twenty years since its creation, Congress has yet to renew.

For nearly two decades, the reauthorization of CHIP has gone on virtually unchallenged. CHIP was reauthorized most recently in 2015, and it was due to be renewed this year by September 30. Sadly, our lawmakers have neglected their job to protect their youngest, most vulnerable constituents. It is now more than 60 days past the reauthorization date and Congress has yet to act, choosing instead to ram through a tax bill that will give massive cuts to millionaires and corporations and take away key supports for low-income children. Meanwhile, states are running out of money to fund CHIP.  States such as Colorado have already begun preparations in the event that the CHIP fund runs out and the state can no longer keep the program afloat. Their families have been notified that if Congress fails to act, their children could lose health coverage. Dozens of other states are predicted to send out similar notifications soon.

This isn’t Hard

This is not a fight we should have to have. Providing health care coverage for children and pregnant women is not something that is widely controversial or unpopular. If the Republican-led Congress fails to renew CHIP, 4 million children  will lose their health coverage. Children shouldn’t have to pay for Congress’s inability to pass common sense legislation. Routine checkups and doctor visits are integral to the health and wellbeing of children. There have been many political fights this year, but ensuring health coverage for low- income children shouldn’t be one of them. Enough is enough. It’s time for Congress to reauthorize CHIP before it is too late.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.