CHIPing away at children’s health

If only Congressman Tom Garrett and the Congressional Republicans were really as concerned with the health of children as they are with passing a tax cuts that will benefit corporations and the wealthy, he and they would not play games while thousands of families in Virginia wonder if their children will have health coverage after January 2018.

Instead Garrett (and the Republican Congress) has been playing political games with CHIP Reauthorization, voting for legislation that pits children’s health against elderly on Medicare.

Because Congress failed to pass a clean bill of reauthorization or even to include it in the Continuing Resolution passed on Dec. 12, the Virginia Health Department has sent notices to the families of the 67,000 children now covered, or 13,005 in the 5th Congressional District that Garrett directly represents, warning them that the program will end on January 31st.

Garrett’s last statement on CHIP on his website was Nov. 3. He has been silent ever since, ignoring the needs of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and pregnant mothers for their health care.

CHIP, which is called FAMIS in Virginia, has existed since 1997. It is a lifeline for children of families that don’t have the income to afford health care but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. It covers everything from checkups, to prescriptions, to emergency services and care for expectant mothers. And the program is essential to children with chronic illness. Roughly 2 million of the 9 million children covered nationally have one of six chronic health conditions, including asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, mood disorders and developmental disorders such as autism.

CHIP is particularly important to Virginia’s children, as the state Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid, even though 90 percent of the costs of that expansion would be supported by the federal government. So CHIP assures that 67,000 Virginia children who would be uninsured, do have coverage.

Add that to the GOP tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this will cause 13 million fewer Americans to be covered by 2027. And Americans could expect a 10 percent spike in premiums in most years over the next decade. So not only are Congressional Republicans not helping children who depend on CHIP, they are repealing the individual mandate in order to “save” over $300 billion to help pay for their massive tax cuts.

It’s bad enough that Congressional Republicans like Garrett dance to the tune of America’s corporations and richest 1 percent, but it’s outrageous that they threaten the lives of children to do so.

Eve Brooks

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