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November 29, 2017

Congress Should Set Aside Its Differences and Work Together to Protect Health Care for Kids

It has been nearly two months since Congress failed to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Funding for program expired on September 30 of this year. If Congress does not act soon, it will force many states to notify parents and begin the process of shutting down their programs and kicking kids off their insurance. This week, Colorado sent letters to parents notifying them that their Child Health Plan Plus would end in January if Congress has not yet acted to renew CHIP.

For nearly 20 years CHIP has enjoyed strong support from members of both parties, but this year Congress has spent its time attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass tax cut legislation that is tilted toward the wealthy and corporations.

CHIP provides important health care and preventative services to nearly 9 million children throughout the nation. In Wisconsin, CHIP works with BadgerCare to provide health care to 117,000 kids whose parents made too much to qualify for traditional BadgerCare, but not enough to afford private insurance. Through CHIP kids get important services that help them stay health. CHIP provides primary care services, mental health and substance use treatment, x-rays and lab diagnostics, hospital services, and dental. Kids are also eligible for HealthCheck, which ensures that they get appropriate health and developmental screenings, as well as treatment for any issues found.

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin will not be sending out notices to parents or kicking kids off their insurance. If Congress fails to renew funding for CHIP, Wisconsin will face a $135 million hole in the state budget that it will have to fill by cutting services or raising taxes. According to the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin will run out of CHIP funding by this coming March. Kids Forward developed this short fact sheet to explain how BadgerCare, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, works for Wisconsin children and what’s at risk for us, if Congress fails to act.

There is still time for members of Congress to work together to renew CHIP funding and protect children’s health care. Senators and Representatives from both parties have agreed to extend funding for CHIP, but remain divided as to how they will pay for it. Congress needs to set aside its differences and work together to come to an agreement on securing a strong future for children’s health and access to care. If anything could bring Congress together, it is protecting health care for kids. It’s time for Congress to bring CHIP over the finish line.

William Parke-Sutherland

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