Fifty-six days after Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), some American children are at risk of losing their health insurance. The deadline to renew the program’s funding was Sept. 30, and Congress hasn’t granted the program $15 billion to continue.
As a result, the popular state-level insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women is facing a funding cliff. While some states may be able to keep the program going through some of next year, half a dozen are projected to run out of funding by late December or early January.
It takes time to make program changes and alert families they’ll be left in the lurch, so states are starting to take action now. States closest to the funding cliff are preparing to warn customers that funding might disappear, leaving kids in the lurch. There are a few options for those families who rely on CHIP once the funding disappears.
States decide if those families could be enrolled in Medicaid or covered through Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace offerings. But Republicans — Trump in the executive and members of his party in Congress and at the state level — have tried hard block access to both of those alternatives, by sabotaging Obamacare, eliminating support for enrollment, blocking Medicaid expansion, etc.
The program has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, but Republicans, in control of both chambers of Congress and steering a massive tax bill through a lightning-fast approval process, are now unable to the program the funds it needs to survive.
Presumably, this isn’t a question of means: At the center of both House and Senate Republicans’ tax bills is a giant, unnecessary tax cut for corporations: a 20 percent corporate tax cut at a price tag of nearly $1.5 trillion dollars. The Senate has decided one way its bill will raise enough money to fund this is by repealing the ACA’s individual mandate provision, a move that would leave nearly 13 million Americans uninsured.
Trump’s tax proposal would sharply reduce the federal government’s ability to match state funds (the ACA expanded matching) and would cut billions from CHIP’s funding.
“I am working with my colleagues to advance this bill in a fiscally responsible manner so we can ensure coverage is maintained,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in a recent statement. Hatch sits on the Senate Finance Committee and was among the primary authors of both the tax legislation and the original CHIP legislation.
During a heated exchange with Sen. Sherrod Brown over the facts of the GOP tax plan, Brown highlighted that it doesn’t include any funding for CHIP, and any tax plan that truly wasn’t geared towards wealthy individuals would include that funding.
Hatch replied sharply, “I’m not starting with CHIP.”