KGNU is partnering with the League of Women Voters of Boulder County on a monthly commentary series called Making Democracy Work for All! which focuses on educating listeners on the workings of state and local government and letting them know how they can get involved at different stages of the political process. This month Jeannette Hillery takes a look at the need to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is currently in grave danger, even though it has long enjoyed wide bipartisan support in Congress. The League of Women Voters of Boulder County asks your support in urging Congress to reauthorize funding.
CHIP is a highly effective federal program that provides high-quality, low-cost health insurance to low-income American children 18 and under and pregnant women 19 and older. CHIP is for working people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for private health insurance.
Congress first instituted CHIP twenty years ago, in 1997, with strong bipartisan support. CHIP currently serves 8.9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women throughout the U.S. But federal funding expired this year at the end of September (with the end of the federal fiscal year).
The program is administered by the states. In Colorado the program is called Child Health Plan Plus or CHP+. CHP+ covers primary care, emergency care and urgent care, hospital services, dental care (for children only), prescriptions, immunizations, maternity care (prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care), and mental and behavioral health care.
In Boulder County about 3,000 children and pregnant women are enrolled in the Child Health Plan Plus, including 785 children in Longmont and 502 children in Boulder, according to Boulder County’s Department of Housing and Human Services.
Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has already sent letters to enrollees telling them to start preparing for a loss in coverage by the end of January 2018. Colorado was one of the first states to warn people of the consequences of Congress’s failure to act. The situation is creating confusion for families and chaos in program administration at the state and county levels.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in early November to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years, to 2022, but the vote was largely along party lines. The bipartisan support of the past was almost totally gone. Opponents objected that funding would come from other crucial health care programs.
In the Senate, the bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program is currently stalled owing to similar disagreements over funding. Both of our Colorado Senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, are among the Senate bill’s cosponsors. Congressman Polis is in full support of reauthorization. Congressman Buck’s office staff were unable to tell us his position.
The League of Women Voters believes that a basic level of quality health care at an affordable cost should be available to all U.S. residents. The League has strongly supported the CHIP program and its reauthorization over the past 20 years. Extending it now is particularly important in light of the political uncertainty regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), Medicaid, and the stability of the individual insurance markets.
Besides the moral justifications for safeguarding our children’s health, funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program is a sound economic decision. Healthier children become healthier, more productive adults who contribute to the American economy.
Please contact Senators Bennet and Gardner and thank them for supporting the Senate bill. Ask them to urge their colleagues to return to the bipartisan tradition and reach agreement on a five-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program that does not reduce funding for other crucial health-care programs.
Sen. Benet can be contacted at 866-455-9866 and Sen. Gardner can be contacted at 202-224-5941.