Republicans in Congress have been feeling the heat since their September failure to renew funding for the Children'ts Health Insurance Program, and though a short-term spending plan was passed to fund CHIP through March, 2018 will likely hold cuts to health care programs serving nearly half of America's youngest children.
An Urban Institute analysis shows that 49% or 7.7 million children ages 3 and younger relied on CHIP or Medicaid insurance for poor Americans in 2015 . That’s more than any other form of insurance coverage for the 15.7 million young children that year.
Jennifer Haley, one of the study's authors, said these programs are critical to ensuring the nation's children are covered:
“Failure to prioritize CHIP funding would result in increases in uninsurance among children at pivotal early ages and could have adverse effects on their access to needed health care and families’ financial stability.”
Republican desire to trim social safety nets is nothing new, but CHIP has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, with 2017 being the first time in its decade of existence that Congress failed to extend its funding for another five years.
President of the American Medical Association, Dr. David Barbe, was quick to criticize the temporary fix offered by Republicans, saying a "piecemeal contingency plan is no way to run a vital program" for America's children.
“Given the broad support for CHIP in Congress, in the states, and across health care stakeholder groups, we are flummoxed about just what it takes for Washington to get the job done. Three full months after the program expired, the best Congress can come up with is another short-term extension for CHIP and other critical public health programs.”
The AMA has reason to worry for particularly young children addressed in the Urban Institute report. “Conditions during the earliest years of children’s lives, including access to affordable health care for children and their parents have both immediate and long-lasting impacts on children’s health and well being,” Urban Institute report authors wrote. “The rapid brain development that occurs during early childhood sets the stage for health later in life.”