Late last week, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate passed a government funding bill that included six-years of funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). That legislation was blocked in the Senate, where it was unable to get sufficient Democrat support to reach 60 votes—even though the many states would have started running out of CHIP funding within weeks. Why? Senate Democrats and the 186 House Democrats saw the CHIP program and government funding as little more than hostages they could use to try and force action on an immigration program that doesn’t expire until March and that will continue anyway as the issue is litigated in court.
After a few days of a needless government shutdown, responsible Senate Democrats (unfortunately not including California’s own) realized this was an exercise in futility. They passed essentially the same bill the House had passed before—a bill that included the longest extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program funding in history. That bill was signed into law on Monday night.
While the hand-wringing in the immediate aftermath continues, this is much more important than any political games. CHIP serves the needs of low-income children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have health insurance through an employer or private means. With this insurance, kids can receive routine medical care, vaccines they need to attend school, dental and vision checkups, and coverage for an emergency hospital visit.
Out of the approximately nine million children nationwide who rely on chip, two million live in California. Republicans remained adamant that not a single one of these children should lose their health insurance because politicians wanted to leverage the program to score political points.
I am proud Republicans led the efforts to pass and get signed into law the longest extension of the CHIP program in history over the cynical objections of Democrat leaders in Washington. More importantly, millions of children in California and across America won’t have to worry about losing their health insurance anymore.
Although this is a significant accomplishment, there is more that needs to be done. Our community health centers must be funded, and the Special Diabetes Program needs additional funds allocated to counter juvenile diabetes. The House acted on these priorities last year and passed H.R. 3922, the Championing Healthy Kids Act, a bill that would have accomplished both of these goals. However, in spite of wide-ranging support in the House, the bill again faced opposition from Senate Democrats, who refused to pass the bill, justifying their obstruction as legitimate leverage on—you guessed it—immigration issues. I am confident that given the futile exercise of shutting down the government, the same group of Senate Democrats who split from their leadership to actually try and help the American people will join us to fund these important programs.
Among other things, the bill would allocate $3.6 billion per year for the Community Health Center Fund, which provides grants to health centers that provide necessary primary and preventative care service. Additionally, roughly $300 million would be allocated in 2019 for the Special Diabetes Program, which funds research on preventing and curing juvenile diabetes at the National Institutes of Health. The Special Diabetes Program also funds for prevention programs for American Indians through the Indian Health Service and other urban Indian Health providers. Securing CHIP funding was an important milestone in our campaign to protect America’s youth, we must now follow that success by extending the expiring provisions of H.R. 3922 necessary to maintaining public health.
I remain committed to solving real problems the American people have instead of getting caught up in Washington’s petty games, and I will call on my colleagues in Congress to address these particular programs at the next opportunity. CHIP funding was a significant step in the right direction, but we can’t stop there.