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Another health program taken away: Will CHIP receive reauthorization funding?

EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON | 12/26/2017, 8:46 a.m.
Ever since its inception, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been vital in ensuring our nation’s most vulnerable children have ...
eddie bernice johnson

U.S. House of Representatives

Ever since its inception, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been vital in ensuring our nation’s most vulnerable children have the opportunity to have a healthy and fulfilling childhood. The legislation has been reauthorized multiple times with broad bipartisan support. However, the current Republican-led Congress is threatening to put children in our district in danger of losing this essential service.

CHIP, signed into law in 1997, provides health coverage to children of low-income families and pregnant women who have an annual income that is above the Medicaid eligibility levels but who have no health insurance. For example, to qualify for Medicaid in Texas, the maximum yearly income for a household of one is approximately $24,000. Under the CHIP program, the federal government matches the state between 65 and 100 percent. However, until this year CHIP had always received bipartisan support for funding. Nevertheless, in September 2017, federal funding expired for this program, leaving nearly 9 million children and mothers at risk of losing health insurance.

Texas will exhaust its federal funding in the upcoming year causing, the state to notify over 400,000 recipients (nearly 45 percent of children in the state) that their insurance will expire on January 31, 2018, including approximately 40,500 constituents in District 30 at risk of losing their health care. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has requested an extra $90 million from the federal government’s redistribution funds; that is used to assist states with a funding shortfall to fund the program through February. Though this is a temporary fix, it does not solve the problem; Congress must reauthorize funds.

Although I have been a longtime supporter of the CHIP program, the partisan bill passed by Republicans this fall takes away from the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Specifically, the state of Texas would lose over $13 million in funding from the ACA Prevention Fund under the Republican bill. However, I will continue to work diligently with my colleagues in Congress to secure these necessary resources for CHIP.

Recently, I signed on to cosponsor H.R. 4541, the Champion Kids Act of 2017, that will address this issue by reauthorizing CHIP, Community Health Centers and other important public health programs while funding them by shifting the timing of prescription drug payments to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. I have also joined my Texan colleague, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, in a letter to the House and Senate leadership urging them to work urgently in a bipartisan manner to extend funding for CHIP because it will negatively affect middle- and working-class families. Since its inception, CHIP has been a focus point in bipartisanship, and so Congress should continue fighting to ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable populations have affordable health care.

U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.