By Rob Thompson
It’s hard to believe that health care for nearly 9 million children across the country, and over 250,000 here in North Carolina, hangs in the balance. More than 100 days ago, Congress let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expire and has failed to restore funding since. This has never happened in the history of CHIP, which enjoys wide bipartisan support and, according the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), actually saves the federal government money with a 10-year extension.
So how has this happened?
In short, CHIP has become a political bargaining chip. In fact, there is NO disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about CHIP policy or funding. Congressional leadership, however, refuses to allow a vote on a clean CHIP bill that’s unattached to controversial measures, such as the short-term budget fix to keep the government open that was voted down last week. They won’t fund children’s health care without getting something in return.
To be clear, we are furious that this type of partisan, political gamesmanship is jeopardizing the health of our state’s and our nation’s children. Parents are understandably terrified about what this means for their children. In many states, letters have already gone out to families telling them that program funds will expire. In North Carolina, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said last week that we have 6-8 weeks of funding left.
From the children who are due for their well-child visits to the ones who rely on insulin, inhalers, and chemotherapy to survive, our children need health insurance, not political games. Congress needs to act now and restore funding for CHIP immediately. 9 million kids are waiting.