With more and more states running out of money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, parents took their case to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, pleading with Congress to provide money before their sons and daughters lose health care and coverage.
But the program, known as CHIP, which insures nearly nine million children, took a back seat as lawmakers raced to pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut. CHIP’s fate, it appears, is now caught up in a messy fight over an end-of-the-year deal on spending that must be struck by Friday to avert a government shutdown.
“CHIP is being used as a pawn in larger debates and negotiations,” Linda Nablo, the chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, said Tuesday in an interview. “It has fallen victim to the dysfunction and partisanship in Congress. And we are getting very close to the point where some children will also be victims.”
Virginia sent letters last week to parents of 68,000 children warning them that CHIP coverage would end on Jan. 31 unless Congress took action.
Congress has known since April 2015 that funds for the popular children’s insurance program — created and sustained for two decades with bipartisan support — would expire this year at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee approved a five-year extension of funding for the program in early October, but did not specify how to pay for it — and Republicans insist that it must be paid for.
Congress is looking to leave Washington for the year, but the Children’s Health Insurance Program is out of money, and parents are pleading for help.