When Congress passed its temporary funding bill last night to prevent the federal government from shutting down, it included $2.85 billion to keep the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funded for the next three months.
Advocates were relieved that at least the program, which is designed to provide care for kids and expectant mothers, was given a reprieve, but they were upset that it was barely kept on life support just as Congress voted for a massive, $1.5 trillion tax cut that largely benefits wealthy Americans and big business.
As the political pundits like to say, "The optics on that one were not good."
"A 3-month extension of CHIP gives families a only brief reprieve from health insecurity," said Michael Munger, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Long-term funding is an absolute necessity, and it's incumbent on Congress to return to the work of passing funding legislation that ensures stability to CHIP and the children and expectant mothers who depend on it."
"Here at Christmas, we think of the children first, but children are not put first in this underlying bill," complained Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). "CHIP is barely left on life support, and children with dread diseases and disabilities and their access to [physicians] is not assured because this Congress has not acted on CHIP. Instead of Christmas cards, they're about to get cancellation notices."
Sen Rob. Portman (R-Ohio) was disappointed that a 5-year CHIP extension was not voted on. "We passed [CHIP] with unanimous vote out of [the Senate Finance] committee," he said. "It's always been a bipartisan initiative," he said.
"It's called CHIP, but it shouldn't be a political chip; it should be taken out of politics," declared Portman. "We should have passed it tonight; funding it should be a top priority ... I urge my colleagues, when we come back [in January], let's make it a priority. Let's have a vote; maybe it could even be unanimous ... Let's give families the peace of mind to know that we're extending this program."