The Children’s Health Insurance Program has few opponents in Washington. Created by Congress 20 years ago, it has been reauthorized repeatedly with bipartisan support. But the program is in danger of becoming a casualty of Republican brinkmanship in Washington.
The program ensures low-cost medical coverage for children whose parents earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid. It covers about 9 million children, including 2 million in California. Only Texas comes close with just over 1 million children covered.
However, funding for CHIP expired more than three months ago, and Congress has yet to approve long-term funding. Last month, Congress approved an 11th hour plan by passing a short-term spending measure to keep the program going until March. But federal officials miscalculated. According to estimates from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, some 24 states and Washington, D.C. are at risk of running out of funds by the end of the month.
The program is at risk of getting caught up once again in debate about federal deficits and a possible government shutdown. Keep in mind that the cost of just a five-year extension of funding, roughly $800 million, is less than 1 percent of all of the money the Republican-controlled Congress and the president gave away, primarily, to corporations and wealthy Americans through recently approved tax cuts. The health of 9 million American children shouldn’t be compromised to put more money in the pockets of billionaires. Thumbs down.