By David Thomsen, Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, UnidosUS
The latest threat to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut the Medicaid program has been halted—for now. While this was certainly a positive development for our community, we must quickly pivot to critical work in other areas. One of our biggest concerns is that currently, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is at risk of ending and leaving nearly nine million children across the country without the affordable care they need to grow up healthy.
Last week, while Congress was focused on undermining the ACA, they missed the September 30 deadline to reauthorize funding for a program that last year insured nearly nine million children, including many Latino children. UnidosUS has called on Congress to reauthorize CHIP funding, without further delay, through written testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for this program.
For more than 20 years, CHIP has provided quality, affordable health care for millions of children, including Latinos, living in families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. Since 1997, largely because of CHIP and the ACA, the Latino child uninsured rate has declined from 28.6% to less than 8% today, providing the building blocks for millions of Latino children to live healthy lives. Last month, UnidosUS released a fact sheet highlighting the impact of this program on Latino children, and why Congress has a responsibility to our nation’s children to fund this program immediately.
With Congress missing the deadline to reauthorize CHIP funding, the well-being of nearly nine million children is at risk. Each state operates its own CHIP program, using funding from the federal government to provide health coverage for children in working families who might otherwise remain uninsured. Without federal funding, states must begin unwinding their programs, freezing enrollment, and sending cancellation notices. In many cases, sooner rather than later.
This would represent a dramatic step backward. Since 2015, the last time CHIP was reauthorized, many states have expanded their programs, paving the way for tens of thousands of children to gain health coverage. In 2016, Arizona reinstated its CHIP program, enabling an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 children to access health care.
Now is not the time to turn our backs on our children. CHIP has enjoyed bipartisan support and has been an effective program, regardless of the political or economic climate. Keeping CHIP strong by reauthorizing funding for an additional five years—at current levels—is critical to making sure that every child has the opportunity and ability to live healthy and thrive. It is past time for Congress to fulfill its responsibility to our children and fund this vital program.