Their view: Commit to health insurance for children

Matt Cartwright - Guest Columnist | December 13th, 2017 3:08 pm

Americans agree that all children in our country deserve health care, which is why Republicans and Democrats have worked together for two decades to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

CHIP provides low-cost health care to nearly nine million middle class kids whose parents would otherwise not be able to afford to bring their children to the doctor. CHIP provides access to checkups, immunizations, prescriptions, dental care, emergency care and many other critical services.

Thanks to CHIP, the uninsured rate for children in the U.S. has fallen to a record low of 4.5 percent. Over 300,000 children across Pennsylvanian rely on CHIP for their health care needs.

With this record of success and history of broad support, continuing to fund this program should be a no-brainer. Yet notices have gone out to families throughout Pennsylvania warning that CHIP’s funding is running out.

With this funding crisis looming, the only plan put forward to a vote in the House of Representatives this year to extend CHIP would have increased Medicare premiums for seniors and unraveled the Affordable Care Act. That bill created unnecessary and false choices. It was therefore opposed by the AARP, March of Dimes, Center for Medicare Advocacy, and a whole host of other reputable organizations.

Damaging one part of our health care system to pay for another is not an acceptable plan. Thankfully the Senate has refused to vote on this unworkable bill. We need to come together to urgently work on a real solution.

The crisis on CHIP is a deeper one than just the immediate lapse of funds. To be fully effective going forward, Congress needs to once again provide the program stability and certainty.

Congress originally authorized and funded CHIP for a 10-year period. That gave the states the certainty they needed to plan and run cost- and health-effective insurance programs.

Children need consistent visits to the doctor and reliable health care to grow up healthy. They need their vaccinations, physicals, preventative care, and they need parents who do not have to make a hard economic choice every time their child needs to see a doctor.

When the House voted in early December to avoid a government shutdown, I wanted to include a long-term solution for CHIP. But, regrettably, Congress merely changed math on CHIP funding just enough to buy some states a few more weeks of funding – nothing more. That’s not the steady financing the states need nor the solution our kids deserve. We need to reject this type of policy-making and pass actual solutions.

Is there hope for a real fix? I’d like to think so. Earlier this month, I cosponsored a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, H.R. 4541, to fund CHIP for five years, paid for by efficiency improvements to federal health care payments and with no change whatsoever to Medicare premiums for seniors.

Ultimately, Congress must work together to forge a bipartisan, lasting solution to ensure our kids can go the doctor and get the care they need. The CHIP program represents a promise to give our children this basic right. In our great country, no family should feel like they cannot bring their child to the doctor because money is too tight, period. CHIP is an investment in our future, and it’s time to get this right.


Matt Cartwright

Guest Columnist

Matt Cartwright represents the 17th Congressional District, which includes portions of Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Northampton, and Carbon Counties and all of Schuylkill County. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.