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December 20, 2017

Congress Shouldn’t Put Tax Cuts for the Rich Ahead of Health Care for Kids

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired nearly three months ago, and Congress still has not passed legislation renewing the program. CHIP supports health care for nearly 9 million kids throughout the country and more than 100,000 in Wisconsin. Despite its history of strong bipartisan support, Congressional leadership is choosing to focus its energy on passing an unpopular tax cut bill that will give billions of dollars to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

President Trump, administration officials, and congressional leadership have been laser-focused on shoring up Republican votes to pass the unpopular tax bill by the end of the year. It’s increasingly likely that Congress may leave for their holiday break and without funding health care for kids. If so, they’ll put millions of kids at risk of losing their health care. Where’s Congressional leadership’s sense of urgency to fund a program that supports millions of kids?

As many as 4.5 Million kids nationwide could lose access to care if Congress fails to act soon, and states are preparing for that outcome. Alabama has announced that it is freezing enrollment, Colorado has sent letters to parents telling them their program is at risk, Virginia’s done the same, and Connecticut has said it will end its program at the end of January if nothing is done.

Wisconsin families don’t need to fear that kids are going to be denied health care if Congress doesn’t renew CHIP. In our state, 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.

CHIP ensures that kids get important services that help them stay healthy. 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.  However, Congress’s failure to act will have budget implications for the state of Wisconsin.

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.

It’s been 81 days since Congress failed to renew CHIP. Congress should not go home for the holidays until they have secured long-term funding for CHIP and can give working families the gift of not having to worry about health care for their kids.

It’s well passed time for Congress to get their priorities straight and renew CHIP now.

William Parke-Sutherland