Guest post by Ben Anderson, Director of Health Policy at Children’s Defense Fund-NY. Here we are 39 days and counting since the September 30th deadline for Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and yet families of the 350,000 New York children who depend on CHIP for coverage are still waiting for Congress to act. Sadly, once again children are being held hostage to political debates.
Created specifically for children, CHIP’s benefits and provider networks are designed to ensure children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid have access to child-appropriate services, providers, specialists, and facilities. Despite bipartisan support for a strong, five-year extension of CHIP in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, debate continues about how to pay for CHIP and the extension of other important health programs.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, a bill that includes the same strong, bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP that the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance Committees approved and that most child health advocates strongly support. However, the bill passed by the House pays for the extension of CHIP and other critical health programs for vulnerable populations with offsets that would cause undue harm to children and families. These provisions passed over the objections of many in the House and are jeopardizing the bill’s passage in the Senate.
The sad irony is that Congress is bickering over how to fund CHIP and other programs in the bill, when the total cost for these programs is merely 1% of the amount Congress will add to the deficit to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in America. The senselessness must end. We’re so close to the finish line. There is bipartisan support for CHIP. Senate and House members, Republicans and Democrats alike, agree on what we need to do for children’s health. Congress needs to finish its homework and reach a bipartisan consensus on funding CHIP.