Millions of children to lose health care because GOP was too busy passing unpopular tax bill

Congress fails to renew funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program, putting 9 million children at risk

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expired nearly two months ago. But rather than act to make sure millions of children still had access to health care, Republicans in Congress instead spent all their time before going on vacation passing a highly unpopular tax plan.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, covers about 9 million children. And 2 million of those kids could lose their health care as soon as next month.

The states don’t have the money

While Congress debated the tax bill instead of funding CHIP, the states scrambled to fund health insurance for these children in the meantime.

But now, they’re running out of money.

According to the Center for Children and Families, 25 states will run out of money in January, and 9 more will run out in February. That leaves parents and families worried about their very futures right at the holiday season.

“We are in a terrible situation right now,” Linda Nablo, the chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, said of the CHIP crisis.

“All this, of course, is being done as the holiday season approaches,” she said. “It’s left us in a terrible quandary. I’m not really sure what we’re going to say to parents or what the solution is going to be.”

It’s getting so bad that Virginia has told parents to get their doctor visits in while they can.

“We suggested to families that if your children needed a doctor visit or a dental visit, they might want to arrange that in the month of January,” she said. “And we’re particularly concerned about families with children in the course of treatment or who are very, very sick, potentially even hospitalized.”

“Our phones are ringing off the wall,” Cathy Caldwell, the director of the Alabama Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance Programs, also said. “We have panicked families just wondering what in the world they have as options, so it is very, very stressful here in Alabama.”

This isn’t a partisan issue, but it is.

Funding for CHIP should be easy. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the program needs to be funded.

But the problem comes from the fact that Republicans have attached measures intended to weaken the Affordable Care Act to CHIP funding. Democrats won’t vote for anything that jeopardizes the ACA, which means the Senate doesn’t have the votes it needs to pass funding.

“They need to stop playing politics with our kids,” said Andrew Montoya, 25.

Montoya has three daughters who may all lose their health care: Audrey, 8, Katrina, 5, and Scarlett, 3, according to the Huffington Post.

“This is a game of chicken,” said T.C. Bell, 30, who lives in Denver. “My kids are just being put in the middle of that.”