Don’t Cut Coverage for 1 Million Children
The following commentary was published by the Fresno Bee on Friday, April 10, 2015.
With the May deadline for finalizing California’s budget looming, our state leaders need an answer from the U.S. Senate on whether it will deliver on more than a half a billion dollars in annual federal funding promised to California families for their kids’ health insurance coverage.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a critical source of coverage for low- and moderate-income working families that makes sure California’s kids get the care they need to stay healthy and succeed. This proven program has the overwhelming support of 41 Republican and Democratic governors, including California’s, but federal funding for the program is set to expire soon. The House of Representatives has already taken strong bipartisan action, but if the U.S. Senate doesn’t follow suit and renew CHIP now for four more years, California will have to figure out where to cut at least $533 million in 2016 alone — causing devastating impacts on our budget and families.
In California, CHIP dollars fund coverage for more than 1 million children in Medi-Cal for Families and make it possible for children to see doctors. Previously called Healthy Families, CHIP ensures children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford to buy coverage, receive quality care. It provides coverage tailored to the needs of kids — with pediatrician-recommended services children need to reach important developmental milestones, including dental, hearing, vision and mental health.
A recent report on children’s health care coverage from The Urban Institute and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found coverage rates for kids are at a historic high of close to 93%. This is a direct result of CHIP. Unless the U.S. Senate acts when it returns from recess Monday, we stand to undo nearly 20 years of progress in providing kids with the health care coverage they need to develop and succeed.
As the U.S. Senate considers CHIP renewal, no children should be worse off than they are now. We need the U.S. Senate to act quickly to build on the House support and extend CHIP for four years. California should have the certainty and flexibility to continue covering all kids enrolled in the program, and new enrollments should continue to be streamlined to avoid unnecessary red tape.
Without CHIP, hard-working families could be left one accident or illness away from financial disaster due to impending medical bills for their children. And, because CHIP is a partnership between private health plans and government, a failure of the Senate to act would leave these business partners across the state unable to finalize contracts.
By acting now, this successful program can be renewed for the next four years and our families and our state leaders will be able to adequately plan for a healthy future for our children.
At a time when Congress is increasingly deadlocked, CHIP is an example of a true bipartisan effort. The vote in Congress March 26 was championed by both parties with a remarkable vote of 392 to 37! Our Central Valley congressional representatives, Jeff Denham, R-Turlock; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; David Valadao, R-Hanford; and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, all voted in favor of renewal, and we owe them our thanks and appreciation.
We can all agree that, when it comes to setting up a child for success, few things matter more than good health. When children’s health needs are met, they are better able to learn in school and parents miss fewer days of work.
When families don’t have to worry about unexpected medical bills, they are more financially secure. This is why our United Ways work on the three pillars of success: health, education and financial stability. By renewing funding for CHIP now, our federal representatives can do the right thing for California’s children.
Michael Alexander is President and CEO of United Way of Fresno County. Rosemary Caso is President and CEO of United Way of Tulare County.