Congress created a crisis when it failed to meet the deadline to extend CHIP funding on September 30, and they have been kicking the can down the road ever since. Their neglect has left states trying to hold their CHIP programs together as best they can under very difficult circumstances, while holding out hope that Congress will make good on its promise to keep kids covered.
As Congress packs up for the year, it appears that those hopes have been in vain, at least for 2017. Despite an apparent bipartisan agreement to provide long-term CHIP funding, for some reason Congress is not attaching that to the must-pass Continuing Resolution, but only planning to add another short-term patch that will not provide the reassurance states need to keep CHIP programs on a sustainable path and provide families with the peace of mind that their children’s health coverage will be secure.
To understand what is truly at stake, listen to some of those on the front lines who are trying to make sense of this irrational neglect of a popular, bipartisan program.
Here is what Linda Nablo, the chief deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, said on a media call we hosted yesterday:
“We’re in a terrible situation. We are running numbers and trying to analyze options — of course, all this is being done as the holiday season approaches. It’s left us in a terrible quandary. I’m not really sure what we’re going to say to parents.”
“A short-term fix without adequate funding is not only useless, it’s dangerous. It has made things worse. Congress continually seems to have the attitude that the only real issue is when states run out of their last dollar.”
“It’s incredibly naive of Congress to think that this is simply a budget issue, as opposed to a very large and involved programmatic issue. There are kids and real families at the other end of this.”
Cathy Caldwell, director of the Alabama Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance, said:
“Our phones are ringing off the walls. We have panicked families wondering what in the world they have as options. It’s very, very stressful here in Alabama.”
“We were led to believe that [CHIP funding] was going to happen. Each time the date got kicked out, my initial reaction was ‘Oh my goodness, there’s no way we can hang on.'”
“I believe [Congress’ inaction] will cause irreparable damage to the CHIP program. It’s already negatively affecting our credibility — it will take us years and years to overcome it. But by far, the worst is what’s going to happen to these children who lose coverage.”
Dr. Sam Bartle, pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Virginia Commonwealth University, said:
“The lack of CHIP funding is itself an emergency…the true emergency here has been a Congress-created emergency that keeps kids from getting the care they actually need and deserve.”
States can’t rely on limited patchwork funding and families can’t afford to go without coverage for their kids. After this long wait, kids deserve a home run — not another bunt — on CHIP funding from Congress.