Funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program Expired on September 30th. Congress to Blame.

In a Friday afternoon “news dump” Tom Price resigned from leading The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The resignation came after mounting public outrage at Price’s wasting of tax dollars on private jets. The next day, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding expired leaving an estimated nine million children in limbo. Another example of failure on Price’s watch. He should have advocated for the program he is tasked to administer. To his exit, I say good riddance. However, Tom Price is not the only one at fault in letting CHIP’s funding expire. Congress is even more to blame for their ineptitude.

Neither of the committees in the House or Senate did their job. Many pundits are pinning the blame on Congress’s laser-like focus on repealing Obamacare. Perhaps that was more the case in the Senate where Republicans tried and failed on three separate occasions to pass a replacement health care policy. The last attempt – Graham-Cassidy – was pulled from consideration merely four days before CHIP funding was set to expire. No excuse for failing nine million children and their families, but that’s on the Senate Committee on Finance members.

What about the House? The excuse of Obamacare repeal being the shiny object of distraction holds no water for them. They passed their rushed, unknown health care plan in May. They had four full months to get CHIP funding reauthorized. Instead, the House Energy and Commerce Committee failed to prioritize the successful program. Congressman Kevin Cramer serves on this committee which places him directly responsible for its failure. Cramer has tried to convince North Dakota voters he is a strong advocate for children. He failed to live up to that campaign image in this instance.

According to Maggie Anderson, North Dakota’s Director of Medicaid Services, approximately 2,259 children per month utilize CHIP a.k.a. “Healthy Steps” in our state. Anderson estimated the state has enough funding in reserve to last until May of 2018. Great news for our state, we’re one of the lucky ones that can withstand the lapse. Children in other states aren’t so lucky. In the current Washington political climate, there is no guarantee this will move up the priority list. Congress should be ashamed of themselves.