CHIP at risk of losing funding
The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides health care coverage for children from low-income families, specifically the subset of families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford private insurance. Since its creation in 1997, the program has provided health care for 8.9 million children across the United States. Among the states, California has reaped the greatest benefit from the program, with over 2 million children enrolled in CHIP.
But the continuance of the assistance program is currently in jeopardy. The temporary funding that the program has received since its expiration in the fall of 2017 is limited, and most states are expected to run out of money by the end of March. Meanwhile, Congress is in a state of disarray when it comes to renewing funding for the plan.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that it would cost $800 million to renew CHIP for another five years, which is drastically lower than the CBO’s previous cost estimate of $8.2 billion. This decreased financing of CHIP can be attributed to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — which imposes tax penalties on those who don’t purchase health insurance — in the new tax law. Without the individual mandate in place, fewer people buy government-subsidized exchange health insurance plans. As a result, health insurance companies raise their premiums, which increases government spending. Renewal of CHIP would lower federal costs because more people would be using the program instead of buying exchange insurances.
With tax plans, White House drama and the Russia probe making huge headlines, the attention of the general public might be diverted from the millions of children across the country who risk losing their health care coverage. The Editorial Board expects more from the federal government. The parents of these children depend on this form of low-cost insurance for everything from routine check-ups and immunizations to emergency visits. Few things are more important than making sure that a child with Type 1 diabetes receives their insulin shot or that a sick child gets the surgery that they desperately need. The health and lives of children should not be partisan issues.
The dramatically lowered cost estimate for CHIP should pave a smooth path for bipartisanship in renewing funding. Prior to the release of the updated CBO cost estimate, some members of the Republican party asserted that government spending had already reached a maximum threshold and that there was difficulty in deciding how to pay for the program. Some wanted to strike a deal by reauthorizing CHIP in exchange to further cutting parts of the ACA.
With or without the CBO’s modified cost estimate, the use of CHIP as a bargaining tool and the reluctance to make this program a priority on the legislative agenda reflects poorly on Congress.
The Editorial Board urges families — whether they are directly affected by this program or not — to push federal lawmakers to do the right thing and fund CHIP.
Written By: The Editorial Board