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Wednesday, 13 December 2017 06:05

Children's Health Insurance Program Threatened by Tax Breaks for the Rich

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chipjpgMedical care for all children is essential to a nation's health. (Photo: Mike Licht)

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The federal Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) is currently on the chopping block in the Republican Congress due to an alleged lack of funding. At the same time, the GOP is about to begin reconciling House and Senate tax bills that will divert billions of dollars to the wealthiest Americans. The federal-state program that provides health insurance for approximately 9 million children formally expired on September 30. It is receiving a short reprieve through funding provided by a continuing resolution that will keep the government from shutting down until December 22.

The likelihood of CHIP's elimination is starting to have an impact. According to a December 13 NBC News article,

State officials in Virginia started warning families this week that the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is about to run out of money.

It’s one of several states that have given notice or are preparing to tell families that funding for the program has ended and Congress has failed to renew it.

For many families, that could mean an end to their health care unless they find someone to offer free care to their kids, according to Linda Nablo, chief deputy director at Virginia's Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Other states are no doubt following suit in sending out such warnings. In essence, the congressional tax restructuring bills aimed at benefitting the wealthiest Americans will increase the deficit. This, in turn, will be used as an excuse to discontinue funding of programs, such as CHIP, that serve those of limited economic means. In Ohio, even the Republican governor is pleading for CHIP, according to The Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined 11 other governors from both parties Tuesday to plead with Congress to keep health coverage for nearly 220,000 Ohio children and millions more across the country....

In a letter to congressional leaders, Kasich and the other governors warned that failure to extend the program will jeopardize “access to essential health services like well child exams, asthma medicine, and hospitalizations.”

“Resources are nearly exhausted and some states already have begun to inform families that their children’s coverage may end on January 31,” the governors wrote.

The federal part of the program is estimated to cost $9 billion for the next five years, a fraction of the tax savings for the rich included in the House and Senate tax bills. The bills will, of course, run up the federal debt, the size of which was a subject of constant Republican criticism under the Obama administration. The debt is currently estimated to stand at just over $20 trillion. Going further into national debt to give tax breaks to plutocrats does not appear to bother most Republicans one whit now.

Of course, Republicans, in general, would like to eliminate as many programs as possible that help the poor, including CHIP. Yesterday, BuzzFlash ran a commentary by Dr. John Geyman, that discussed how the tax bills that have been passed in Congress would be ruinous to Medicaid. Geyman cited a study that to finance the tax cuts on individuals and corporations "Medicaid [would be cut] over ten years by $1 trillion." For the Republicans, the tax bills are a twofer: The rich get richer and the poor get their programs cut out from under them, a longtime goal of the GOP.

The health of a nation cannot be judged by how many millionaires and billionaires it has. The health of the country depends upon how the needs of its people are addressed as a community. An expert talks about the value of CHIP in a recent NPR article,

"CHIP is probably one of the most successful government programs we've enacted in the last couple of decades," says Timothy McBride, a professor of health economics at Washington University in St. Louis and chairman of that state's Medicaid oversight committee, which also oversees CHIP.

Keeping kids insured doesn't cost much, he says, and it sure pays off.

"It's extremely important," he says, "because it's developmental — it's vaccines. You know it can reduce the likelihood that a person has a lifelong chronic disease."

Apparently, according to congressional Republicans, we can afford to make the likes of the Kochs, the Trumps and the Adelsons even more prosperous, but we can't afford to provide health care to children in need through CHIP.