Funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, ran out in September, 2017. Congress established funding in 2015 for two years, and everyone expected that a bill funding the program for another five years would have been passed by now. Why? Because CHIP is one of those rare government programs that enjoys wide bipartisan support.
Created by Congress in 1997 largely through the efforts of Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ted Kennedy, CHIP insures nearly 9 million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford other coverage. CHIP fills the gap for the children of these families.
Regardless of everyone’s professed love for the program, Congress has failed to properly fund it, and the separate states, which pitch in a part of the funding, are quickly running out of money to cover the kids. If a measure to fund the program is not passed soon, children are going to lose their medical coverage. Experts claim that permanent damage has already been done to the program because of Congress’ failure to act up to now. Some states have sent letters to parents recommending they make provisions for alternative insurance for their children for next year.
So, what’s the hold up? As usual, it depends on who you ask. The problem is not the desire to fund the program, but in how to pay for it. In November, the House passed a bill to fund CHIP with money gained from cuts to other health programs and from ending the insurance coverage of people who failed to pay their share of the premiums for insurance purchased under Obamacare. The Democrats didn’t like that, so they voted against it. Republicans blast the Democrats for striking the bill down. Democrats, on the other hand, blast the Republicans for focusing their energies on passing a tax reform bill rather than finding a way to fund CHIP. The Democrats, however, have simply voted down Republican bills while not bothering to come up with any ideas of their own on how to fund CHIP.
Any bill funding CHIP is going to require bipartisan support, and the current political atmosphere doesn’t lend itself to much in the way of bipartisan support. Frankly, it sounds to me like each of the two political parties would rather blame the other party for not funding CHIP than spend their energies in finding a solution.
Congress has passed stop-gap measures to fund CHIP through the end of January, but they’ve done so by redistributing funds from states that still have a fair amount of money for the program to states that are soon to run out. In other words, they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. That won’t cut it for the long-term.
Republican Senators like Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, and Orrin Hatch vow to find a solution for funding CHIP for the long haul, but admit that nothing will happen until the new year. That’s cutting it pretty close for a program that is essential to the health and well-being of millions of kids.
To say that the situation having gotten this far is a disgrace doesn’t come close to describing this fiasco. Real lives are at risk here, and those lives are those of our most vulnerable citizens. One would think that people on both sides of the aisle could put their difference aside and create a reasonable solution to this problem, for the sake of our children. Of course, one would think they would have done so a long time ago.
I’m still hopeful, but at this point my hope is about as thin as the air at the summit of Mt. Everest.
If there was any time to contact your Senators and Representative, this is it.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.