Healthy Kids Are Essential to America’s Future

Health

Five years ago, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was reauthorized by Congress, giving parents five more years of peace-of-mind that if their child needs a check-up, a vaccination, antibiotics or worse they can get it and afford it. While not a exactly household word, CHIP really is a national treasure. Since it was first signed into law in 1997, CHIP has been making a difference in the lives of millions of children – mostly kids with parents who don’t get job-based health coverage or who don’t earn enough to buy private insurance. While each state designs its own program, all operate with the same goal – to keep our children healthy so they can be fully engaged at school, prevent parents from missed days at work due to a child’s illness, and ensure that families won’t face financial ruin if a health crisis strikes.

By every measure, CHIP has been successful. Since its inception, it has cut the rate of uninsurance among low-income children by more than 50 percent. Today the numbers of uninsured children stand at a record low with 93 percent of children in America enrolled in coverage they can count on.

That all sounds, great, right? What could be the problem? Well, CHIP is a time-limited program and its funding must be renewed before September 2015if children’s coverage is to be secured into the future. If you’ve been paying attention to what goes on in Washington DC, you probably understand my angst. Let’s just say Congress doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to do. And, in the case of CHIP, the stakes are enormous – millions of children’s lives will be disrupted if Congress fails to act to protect their coverage.

It’s hard to believe that our elected officials wouldn’t want to make sure that children can continue to rely on CHIP. It’s targeted at children in working families, it’s cost-effective, it’s state-run, it has strong bipartisan roots and almost two decades of proven success. At a time when Representatives on both sides of the aisle have taken strong positions on the Affordable Care Act – and all seem to have expressed outrage at one point or another about allowing people to keep the coverage they count on – I sincerely hope that these same Members are willing to stand and fight to protect the coverage that KIDS count on.

One thing is clear, Congress must act soon to stabilize CHIP. If CHIP funding is not renewed before it expires next year, millions of children who rely on CHIP would be left without affordable coverage or any coverage at all. With all of our success in getting kids into coverage over the last 16 years, now is not the time to turn our backs on them. I hope our elected representatives in Washington will look to CHIP as a beacon for what Congress can achieve when they set our priorities in order. Protecting CHIP and preserving it is not only critical for the kids who rely on it, it reflects our priorities as a nation. We owe it to our children.