We are all well aware of the many attempts made by Congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It consumed Congress’ time and focus for months, and ultimately fizzled with unsuccessful votes to change the law.
While Republicans were busy trying to take away health insurance from millions of Americans and make it virtually impossible for my child or anyone else with a pre-existing condition to be able to get health insurance, they also neglected many of their pertinent responsibilities, like ensuring that the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) continued to be funded. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, missed the September 30th deadline to keep funding the program, which ensures nearly 9 million American children and 370,000 pregnant women through both Medicaid and separate, state-administered programs. Children depend on adults to act like…well, ADULTS, and make decisions and take actions needed to ensure their safety and well-being. Congressional Republicans have instead thrown a temper tantrum that rivals the antics of the most sugar-infused 2 year old, and could potentially leave our nation’s most vulnerable citizens with no health protection.
Now, without knowing if or when they will receive their federal funding allocations, most states are faced with the possibility of running out of funds to continue their CHIP programs after the new year. Some states, such as Virginia, plan to notify enrollees on December 1st that the program could end when funds are exhausted by late January 2018.
Congress has done little to secure funding for the program. In late October, House Republicans passed a funding extension bill for CHIP that took funds from existing ACA programs in an attempt to undermine their archnemesis, Obamacare. House Democrats resoundingly panned the bill, and the Senate has been too preoccupied with finding tax cuts for the wealthy, so they have ignored CHIP completely and not taken any action.
We elect our political leaders to lead. We send them to Washington, DC to make decisions in the best interest of their constituents. That is not what is currently taking place in Congress. Hubris and personal agendas are the ruling mindsets, and no substantive progress is being made. The citizenry, rather than being the priority, are now collateral damage from the ideological differences and power jockeying taking place a few blocks away on The Hill. Our leaders are not leading. They are not doing their jobs. They are failing us. There was once a time when children would not be used as political pawns, and all could agree to preserve their best interests. Clearly, we are not in those times, and the current leadership cannot seem to get over their personal interests for the sake of protecting the interest of children. If that does not show us, the voting public, that changes need to be made, I am not sure what else will.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.