Editorial Boards Continue Calling for Action on CHIP

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Newspaper editorial boards have been keeping up the steady drumbeat in their call for Congress to renew CHIP, which expired September 30.

In Maine, the Bangor Daily News questioned “Republican priorities” in an editorial published December 8.

Holding up funding for children’s health while searching for an offset would be especially cruel as Republican lawmakers recently passed bills that reduce tax collections, thereby reducing federal revenues, with offsets that are “wishful thinking.”

On December 3, The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, noted that some states have already started sending out notices to families and declared, “It’s time to sweat it.”

States can hold on to to unspent funds, and that’s how many have gotten by since funding lapsed two months ago. But that only goes so far. Officials have been in a quandary over how to plan for contingencies without panicking families.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board weighed in on November 28, saying the lack of CHIP funding could “blow a hole” in California’s budget.

California can’t afford to hold its breath and hope for the best. It’s time for the state Legislature to get serious and start planning for the health of California’s children.

A day earlier, The Des Moines Register took Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley to task for failing to address CHIP funding.

Grassley is well aware of the crisis states are facing. He recognized in early October several states would run out of funding by December, but noted “Congress is working to reauthorize the program well before then.”

In West Virginia,  the Charleston Gazette-Mail November 20 editorial described the economic benefit of keeping kids covered through CHIP.

It doesn’t make sense to gut a program that contributes to conservatives’ stated aims that people, including parents, should work for a living. By removing one costly burden from the shoulders of parents, particularly those of low skills or low income, Congress removes a barrier to working.

Likewise, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch used a November 11 editorial to describe the impact of CHIP funding on the entire health care system.

The impact of ending health insurance coverage for children would be devastating not only to the children and their families, but it would create a huge financial problem for the health care system — physicians, providers and those who care for them. If they continue to provide some of the care, the costs will be shifted to those of us with insurance.

The CHIP program is one of the wisest investments government has ever made.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, The Journal Gazette editorial writers decried that “Congressional action is becoming the new normal” and called the delay on reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program “particularly disgraceful.”

They wrote in the October 29 editorial:

The situation is still salvageable – bills have been advanced to restore funding for both programs before lasting damage is done. But what does it say about the values and priorities of lawmakers who would so casually place the health care of children and the poor in jeopardy?

The New York Times weighed in Thursday, October 18, decrying the “chaos” created by both the failure to renew the children’s insurance program and the uncertainty over Affordable Care Act subsidies.

In the case of CHIP, they noted how 11 states could run out of money for the program by the end of December.

CHIP, created in 1997 to cover lower-income families who could not get Medicaid, helped lower the uninsured rate for children to 5 percent, from 14 percent. Most children in CHIP are from families with incomes below twice the poverty level, or $49,200 for a family of four.

The Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, struck a similar chord in a October 18 editorial stressing the urgency of a Congressional vote to renew CHIP. They wrote:

States need to know what to tell families. And they need to know now. Because unless Congress does something soon, 9 million of America’s most economically vulnerable children will wake up Jan. 1 without health care.

In Florida, the Naples Daily News wrote Sunday, October 15, about the imperative for moving quickly to reauthorize the program. They wrote:

Congress has put these children at risk by not acting soon enough to renew the 20-year-old Children’s Health Insurance Program, which could run out of money over the next several months unless a new deal is reached between the House and Senate.

In an editorial published the same day, The Pitt Times editorial board urged Congress to make the program a priority.

There shouldn’t be political disagreement around continued funding for CHIP. The program’s benefits are clear — nationwide, the uninsured rate for children dipped below five percent for the first time last year.

In an editorial that ran Wednesday, October 11, The Seattle Times called it embarrassing and enraging that Congress has yet to act on the children’s health program that expired on September 30. They wrote:

These cuts would be cockamamie since so much of children’s health centers on prevention, including vaccinations and primary-care visits to head off future illnesses.

In an October 5 editorial, The Denver Post characterized the legislation under consideration in Congress as the ultimate test of whether lawmakers can “put aside their disagreements and ensure kids across the nation will keep their federally funded health insurance in coming months?”

The Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri urged lawmakers to act quickly. They wrote: “CHIP has been a successful program helping Missouri children. Surely Congress will not summarily allow funding to expire. Surely.

Editorial writers at The Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin, wrote in a piece published October 5 that they were “puzzled and disturbed” that Congress had allowed to expire a program that provides health care to nearly 9 million children.

The editorial reads:

Children’s health has not been a partisan issue in recent decades. Consensus across the American political spectrum has been that funding programs which ensure the health of all children, especially children of limited means, is a worthwhile use of taxpayer money.

The folks in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, expressed surprise, too. In an opinion piece posted the same day they wrote:

People don’t agree on much these days. But we’ll wager that most of us agree on this: Children ought to have health insurance. And community health centers that serve low-income families ought to be funded.

PennLive’s editorial writers laid the blame on partisanship, which they argued is prompting Congress to ignore its essential responsibilities. On October 4, they wrote:

There’s no more glaring example of this basic failure of governance than the expiration this past weekend of federal funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other critical safety-net programs that provide services to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and millions more people nationwide.

In an editorial posted a day earlier, The Baltimore Sun mentioned the movement in Congress toward considering legislation—with both the Senate and the House marking up bills on Wednesday—and urged lawmakers to take action quickly. “There’s not much time,” the editorial board warned, echoing a theme that Say Ahhh! has been emphasizing.

The editorial continued:

“Several other states are expected to start on Nov. 1 to send families notice that the program will end. At the very least, that means anxiety and confusion for families that could entirely have been avoided if Congress had simply done its job before Oct. 1. At worst, children will start losing health insurance coverage, and states like Maryland will be on the hook for hundreds of millions in extra costs. Congress needs to correct its mistake and send a CHIP reauthorization to the president immediately.”

In Florida, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune raised similar concerns in an editorial posted later on October 3.

Citing a report that CCF released in September, the editorial board describes how Medicaid and CHIP have helped Florida cut its rate of uninsured children by more than half since 2009. In raw numbers, that means the state went from having 601,000 uninsured kids to 257,000.

The editorial board warns:

But congressional failure to extend the funding would do more than halt Florida’s momentum toward expanding coverage; it would knock hundreds of thousands of children backward, leaving them without public- or private-sector insurance. That condition is bad for the health of children and, over the long term, will raise the costs of Florida’s public institutions — from hospitals to schools to jails — and lower economic productivity.

 Let us know if you see an editorial in your local paper, and we’ll share it, too.

 

Phyllis Jordan
Phyllis Jordan is the Communications Manager for the Center for Children and Families.

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