The following was published by Public News Service on December 29, 2017.
A last-minute deal in Congress to provide short-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program hasn’t done much to alleviate stress for states and parents going into the new year. Known as CHIP, the program helps cover nine million children nationwide, including nearly 100,000 in Oregon.
The congressional deal gives the program funding through March, but contains no long-term fix for states.
Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon, says working-class families are in a tight bind on top of finding health care – facing rising housing costs, the high expense of child care, and relatively stagnant wages compared with high-income earners.
“That squeeze is already happening for our families,” she warns. “If you add in this impossible expectation that families are going to somehow come up with the full cost of health insurance for their children and themselves, the math just simply won’t work.”
Hunt says the program also helps stabilize the health market. She points out that, if families wait until children have to go to the emergency room for an ailment and can’t afford that visit, the cost falls on taxpayers.
The bill has received bipartisan support since it was authored in 1997 by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Hunt says CHIP is popular across the country.
“It’s really a mystery why it continues to suffer from the political gamesmanship in Congress to not receive the long-term funding that states need in order to plan for and implement the program adequately,” she laments.
Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have disagreed on how to fund the program. The total cost for CHIP in 2016 was nearly $16 billion, with more than 90 percent of funds coming from the federal government.