Congress Allowed a Health Insurance Program That Helps 256,000 N.C. Kids Expire | Triangulator | Indy Week
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Congress Allowed a Health Insurance Program That Helps 256,000 N.C. Kids Expire 

As this weekend's headlines came barreling in—devastation in Puerto Rico, Donald Trump's ongoing feud with the mayor of San Juan, Sunday night's deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas—you might have missed another important, albeit less buzzworthy, story.

Over the weekend, Congress allowed the popular program that provides health insurance to nine million children, CHIP, to expire—without any explanation other than they got busy trying to repeal Obamacare. The bipartisan (remember that?) program, which was cosponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy in the nineties, provides health insurance coverage for children and pregnant women in low-income households—with remarkably effective results. Over the past several decades, the program has helped the uninsured rate for children to plummet, from 14 percent in 1997 to less than 5 percent in 2015.

Now, thanks to Congress's inaction, those gains hang in the balance, including in North Carolina. According to federal data, 256,446 children were enrolled in North Carolina's CHIP program in 2016. The feds cover most of the costs—99.8 percent, to be exact—and without that funding, more than $467 million a year is at risk. To add insult to injury, North Carolina's existing CHIP funds are expected to be spent by early next year. Without new funds, the state has few options—e.g., close enrollment or shut down programs until the funding is restored.

By now, congressional Republicans' willingness to gut health care funding for vulnerable kids is no secret. Just look at the Obamacare repeal failure, which would have slashed Medicaid funding, with potentially disastrous consequences for children in North Carolina. But now is the time to hold our state's elected officials accountable, including Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both firm supporters of the failed ACA repeal that would have left twenty million Americans in the cold. So far, neither has uttered a peep about CHIP's expiration.

So much for being pro-life. 

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