Hyper-Partisanship Is Literally Threatening Children’s Health in America

Video Source: CBS News

The congressional budget has been received with mixed responses, and one of the most controversial changes has been a failure to renew funding for CHIP.

CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, provides low-cost health coverage for lower income families whose incomes are just high enough to disqualify them from being eligible for Medicaid. Historically, the program has had strong bipartisan support.

So why is Congress failing to renew funding for this vital program?

Federal funding for CHIP ran out as of September 30 of this year. Congress has made no moves to agree on a plan to replace the roughly $14 billion in funding spent on CHIP annually. The health care of the roughly nine million innocent children who rely upon the program for doctor's visits, hospital visits and routine dental and vision care remains in jeopardy.

Why CHIP Was Allowed to Expire

In short, funding for CHIP expired due to partisan politics. Republican lawmakers, who make up the majority of both the House and the Senate, have found themselves under intense pressure from President Trump first to repeal and replace Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act), and later, when that measure failed, to pass tax reform legislation.

This undue pressure to pass legislation impacting millions in such a short period of time has led to extreme myopia in Washington.

Instead of focusing on solutions to problems that directly impact their constituents, lawmakers have instead focused on partisan solutions to problems that in many cases do not even exist. For example, President Trump's claim that the US pays the highest corporate income tax rate in the world, which is simply not true.

What remains true? Nine million children may soon face the possibility of missing necessary doctor, dental and vision care visits.

Short Term Measures Proposed

On Friday, Congress passed a short-term appropriations bill aimed at preventing a governmental shutdown. Part of the measure included a provision to help states keep their individual CHIP programs operational as lawmakers continue to work toward a longer term solution.

The short-term, two-week measure allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to allocate emergency funds to states where funding for CHIP is rapidly running out.

However, what the measure does not do is as important as what it does.

While the short-term bill signed by President Trump will provide emergency funding for states who run out during 2017, it does not fund CHIP through 2018. This means that what many families who rely on CHIP will receive for the holidays is the gift of fear of what will happen to their child should their state run out of funding in 2018 or even beyond.

Creating a Conundrum for Many Young Families

One of the vital services offered by CHIP is immunization services.

In every state of the nation, school attendance is compulsory for children under a certain age. However, in order to attend public schools, students need to provide immunization records showing that they have been vaccinated against some of the most serious communicable diseases known to humankind, such as measles, mumps, and polio.

The lack of funding to CHIP creates a real issue for parents hoping to enroll their children in school for the first time during the 2018-19 school year. Should CHIP remain unfunded, many of these parents will have no way to obtain immunization for their children.

And as CHIP serves those of lower socioeconomic means, these parents often lack the ability to home-school their children. Many single mothers, in particular, who are already working two to three jobs just to survive, will be forced into a position where they must break truancy laws due to the inability to vaccinate their children.

Among older students, the spread of serious illnesses such as the flu will also be impacted. CHIP covers flu shots, and without this vital coverage, epidemics of flu outbreaks, already strong among school-aged children, could skyrocket. This could in turn lead to a serious public health crisis, particularly among lower income families.

Moving Forward

CHIP, fortunately, has huge bipartisan support. Nearly anyone can see the public health crises that may arise should this vital program fail to be funded into the future.

However, to date, no Republican leaders have stepped forward with specific measures to fund the program. While the program was extended with bipartisan support in early October, no funds were attached. Without funding, measures to extend the program do nothing to help the children and families that rely on CHIP.

As Republicans control both the House and the Senate, it is compulsory upon their leadership to step forward and take immediate action to fully fund CHIP into the foreseeable future. Failure to do so will not only lead to a public health crisis; it will be a serious indictment of our lack of moral health as a nation.

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