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1,500 Groups Urge Action Now to Protect Children’s Health
Ed Walz (Former Staff)Health
Washington – Today more than 1,500 organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership urging action this year to protect the millions of children who get their health care through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The letter was coordinated by the bipartisan national children’s advocacy organization First Focus and signed by national, state, and local organizations, including organizations in every state.
“Time is quickly running out for Congress to protect the health of millions of children who count every day on the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. “That’s why so many advocates, health care providers, educators, faith leaders, and other voices have united in calling for action.”
As the advocates’ letter details, if Congress fails to act first coverage for up to 10.2 million children could be disrupted, with millions being left uninsured. But because CHIP is a state-federal partnership, state budget officials must make decisions about the future of their states’ CHIP programs well in advance of that deadline.
These concerns are bolstered by two recent developments. The National Governors Association sent a letter last week, through the chairs of its Health and Human Services Subcommittee, to senior members of key congressional committees. The governors’ letter observed that effective planning in states requires certainty from Congress about federal CHIP funding, and it urged congressional leaders to “act quickly to continue federal support.” Also last week, the nonprofit National Academy for State Health Policy released a survey of state CHIP program administrators, finding that “most officials reported they have started to consider potential scenarios if federal funding is not extended.”
“Washington thinks they have six months to fix this problem,” said Lesley. “But state leaders get it, and without assurances from Capitol Hill, many are already making plans to cut or dismantle their CHIP programs.”
As the advocates’ letter details, CHIP has strong bipartisan roots that give governors significant flexibility to design programs to target specific state needs. It is credited in large part for the 50 percent reduction in the rate of uninsurance among children since the late 1990s.
An analysis by the Wakely Consulting Group found that, compared to Affordable Care Act exchange plans, CHIP covers more of the child-specific care children need, with dramatically lower out-of-pocket costs. Another analysis, by First Focus, found that rural children are more likely to get their health care through CHIP and Medicaid than children in urban communities.
“CHIP is a bipartisan health care plan that works for kids,” said Lesley. “The question is whether Congress will continue to delay or listen to the Governors, health officials, and thousands of advocates demanding action.”
First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.firstfocus.org.