Wallie Morris: Children deserve health care | SteamboatToday.com

Wallie Morris: Children deserve health care

On Sept. 30, Congress allowed the federal Children's Health Insurance Program — CHIP — to expire. Reading about it in the news, I thought how could our representatives be so heartless. However, it didn't truly hit home until I saw a Facebook post from my daughters' pediatrician encouraging local parents, with children covered by CHIP, to start investigating alternative health insurance for their children.

As a mother, I began to think of all the mothers and parents in this state, working hard to provide for their families, who may soon be adding costly medical bills to their long list of things to worry about.

Funding CHIP should not be political. It is an essential program that benefits 9 million children and pregnant women nationwide.

A few facts about CHIP:

  • Provides low-cost health care to children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still need support to pay for health care. In Colorado, for example, it applies to families who make up to $5,330 a month for a family of four or approximately $64,000 pre-tax.
  • CHIP helped reduce the share of uninsured children from nearly 14 percent in 1997 to 4.9 percent in 2015, according to the CDC.
  • Costs $14 billion nationally with two-thirds of that being picked up by government.
  • If the program is not renewed, Colorado will lose out on $254 million in annual federal funding, which it won't be able to make up due to constitutionally imposed tax and spending limitations.

According to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, CHIP will end in Colorado on Jan. 31, 2018, if Congress does not renew federal funding. In three months, in the middle of cold/flu season, the approximately 75,000 children and hundreds of pregnant women enrolled in Colorado's CHIP program may not have access to affordable health care.

As citizens, parents and a community, we should be livid that our elected officials cannot agree to re-authorize a formerly bipartisan program that provides health care to low- and middle-income children. Both Senators Bennet and Gardner are co-sponsors of a bill to renew the program, however, members of Congress are piggybacking other controversial health care policies onto the re-authorization of CHIP funding making a bipartisan agreement nearly impossible.

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Our community needs to call our representatives on behalf of these 75,000 children and urge them to prioritize CHIP funding over partisan politics and policies. We need to provide for these kids with CHIP, not use them as a bargaining chip.

Wallie Morris

Steamboat Springs

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