It should go without question that health care for children is key to their development and education, and to the well-being of their families. But due to continued and purposeful inaction by Congress, health coverage and care for 9 million children hangs in the balance.
This delay in Children’s Health Insurance Program funding unnecessarily places more than 2 million California children and pregnant women in jeopardy and creates uncertainty about $2.7 billion in the state budget.
So why are we entering the fourth month since the authorization for CHIP expired without stabilizing the funding for at least five years? The program has 20 years of bipartisan support and plenty of congressional leaders have spoken of its importance. But few seem to be capable of acting, and we don’t have the time for more good intentions or empty promises.
Before CHIP’s enactment in 1997, more than 23 percent of low-income children were uninsured. Today only 5 percent remain uninsured nationally and only 3 percent in California. Health plans offered through CHIP are specifically designed for children and include regular checkups, screenings and immunizations, among other essential services.
For hardworking families, having access to quality and affordable health care coverage for their children reduces worry and stress, and it increases their financial security by preventing debt or even bankruptcy caused by unforeseen medical expenses.
Do we really need to paint how dire the situation is if children go without diagnosis and treatment of a life-threatening illness such as leukemia, or the long-term effects of untreated asthma? Unfortunately, it seems Congress still hasn’t gotten the message.
We need a five-year extension for CHIP as soon as possible. Funding a bipartisan effort to secure children’s health should not be bartered in exchange for other actions, so we urge Congress to pass a clean CHIP funding bill. If they don’t act quickly, the future of millions of children, families and communities will be at risk.
Now is not the time for lawmakers to shirk their responsibilities; now is the time to take their obligation of public service as seriously as parents and physicians take the welfare and health of our children.
Dean Blumberg is a Sacramento pediatrician affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics-California and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter Manzo is president & CEO of United Ways of California and can be contacted at email@example.com.