Tax cuts matter more to Congress than the health of 9 million children

Wednesday , November 29, 2017 - 4:30 AM2 comments


CHIP — the Children’s Health Insurance Program — expired Sept. 30. Congress failed to renew it.

Utah can keep its program running through January. Other states, slightly longer.

But time is running out. Congress continues to focus almost exclusively on a tax cut bill to benefit the wealthy. A government shutdown looms Dec. 8. The House closes its doors for the year Dec. 14, the Senate a day later.

  • RELATED: “Congress confronts jam-packed December with shutdown deadline looming”

Good luck, kids. Your health simply isn’t a priority for the people who represent you in Washington.

CHIP provides health care for nearly 9 million children — children of the working poor. About 85 percent of children participating in CHIP lived in families with one parent working full time, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission reported in 2015.

Their parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but they still can’t afford health insurance or they work for an employer that doesn’t offer it.

  • RELATED: “Unless Congress acts, Utah could lose CHIP program by year's end.”

And it works. CHIP typically covers kids in families with incomes above 100 percent of the federal poverty, but less than 200 percent. In 1997, nearly 23 percent of children in those families were uninsured. In 2015, it was 6.7 percent, according to MACPAC.

The House passed a bill reauthorizing CHIP earlier this month. Sen. Orrin Hatch offered a bipartisan bill that won approval by the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs, but that’s where it stalled.

Even Hatch doesn’t consider it a priority.

During a heated exchange about the Republican tax plan, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown called out Hatch and the GOP for favoring the rich. Hatch called the accusation “crap.”

Hatch, a Utah Republican, said if lawmakers set aside their differences “we could pull this country out of every mess it’s in.”

“Well let’s start with CHIP,” Brown said.

“I’m not starting with CHIP,” Hatch replied.

Hatch worked with Democrats to create CHIP. Now, it’s an afterthought — something Congress can be set aside until it kills the Affordable Care Act and passes tax cuts for the rich.

Congress has it backwards. Everything else can wait.

But those 9 million children of the working poor? They need health care.

They need CHIP. Now.

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