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Congress’ urgent unfinished business for children

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 12/26/2017, 8:52 a.m.
As if our fight to stop the profoundly unjust Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was not enough, we must all ...

Children’s Defense Fund

As if our fight to stop the profoundly unjust Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was not enough, we must all work hard to ensure there will be no unfinished business as Congress works to wrap up the Continuing Resolution before Dec. 22 with all the crucial help children and other vulnerable populations need. Entire groups of children and families’ well-being are at risk without action. The Continuing Resolution must include five years of extended funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program; home visiting support for infants and toddlers and other young children through the Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; support for Dreamers and future Dreamers, young people who came here as children and face risk of deportation; and desperately needed help for hurricane victims in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. All are crucial for children and youths and have bipartisan support. These are not new needs or requests and Congress needs to act on them with urgency.

CHIP: For 20 years, CHIP has given working families the security of knowing their children had access to high-quality, child-appropriate affordable health coverage. CHIP has helped cut in half the number of uninsured children, improved child health outcomes and access to care, helped reduce school absenteeism and improved children’s readiness to learn. CHIP is a lifeline for 8.9 million children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private coverage. CHIP and Medicaid are the foundation of our health care system for children.

Although CHIP began with and continues to have bipartisan support, partisan politicking about how to pay for it keeps blocking the way. CHIP funding is months overdue, and a patchwork of temporary assistance will no longer work. Colorado and Virginia began sending letters to families this month warning that without renewed federal money, CHIP coverage would end in January. Texas and Connecticut plan similar notices this month. Although Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was one of the original sponsors of CHIP and is a continuing CHIP champion, Utah announced it will end CHIP in January if Congress does not find the money. West Virginia’s CHIP board voted to end it Feb. 28, and 30 states will exhaust CHIP funds by March. How unbearable the fear parents feel must be as cancellation notices hit their mailboxes during the holidays.

Brooke, a Texas mother of three, is a church child care provider, and her husband is a mechanic. She puts it this way: “Having health insurance through CHIP has meant that my children are healthy, my family is more financially stable, and my husband and I don’t stay up nights worrying about how to pay our medical bills. My middle daughter was diagnosed six years ago with OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] and anxiety. We’ve had years of treatment with therapists and doctors to teach her coping mechanisms and give her the medications she needed. She’s now healthy and happy, does so well in school and has improved so much. Without CHIP we never would’ve been able to afford the care she needed and she’d still be struggling … If CHIP gets cancelled I don’t know what we’ll do. It’s not like we have a spendy life – we’ve cut everything we can as it is. I’m not sure what we’d choose to go without to pay for our family’s medical needs.”