Today’s headlines were about Congress turning its attention to tax reform, but there’s still some critical health care business to take care of. Congress needs to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) and do it ASAP, before both lapse on September 30th. The health and health care of millions depend on it.
Getting this done should not be hard. Both the CHIP program and community health centers have enjoyed strong bipartisan support, and with good reason. Both make our health system better.
CHIP is a critical part of America’s health care for children
CHIP is health insurance for 9 million children. It is a key reason that children’s health coverage is at an all-time high. Together, CHIP and Medicaid cover 39 percent of this country’s children. See our fact sheet for more on CHIP.
In every state, CHIP gives modest income families that earn too much for Medicaid an affordable coverage option for their children—a coverage option that includes services other insurers often don’t cover, but that are vital to children’s health. That includes things like pediatric dental; speech and language therapies; and, hearing tests and hearing aids. These are services that can help children do better in school and succeed later in life.
If Congress doesn’t act now to extend CHIP funding, families—and states—will be facing a lot of uncertainty. While different states will exhaust remaining CHIP funding at different times, one thing is certain: states will start notifying families, and soon, that coverage for their children might end. Some states may be able to pull money from their general funds to keep their CHIP programs going for a while, but that means tough decisions that take money from other state priorities. Families and states should not have to scramble to keep health coverage for children secure.
Community health centers are central to the health care of millions
Like CHIP, community health centers are a vital part of our health care system, providing medical and dental services to over 25 million patients a year. Their clients include veterans, children, and people living in rural areas where access to any other health care providers is limited. As employers, they generate economic activity in the communities they serve. By helping to keep their clients healthier, they generate savings for our health care system.
If Congress does not extend CHCF funding, the future of community health center across the country is in jeopardy. They will lose 70 percent of their funds. Sites will have to close; an estimated 9 million people will lose their access to health care and 50,000 people will lose their job.
Congress needs to act immediately
Congress needs to extend both CHIP funding and the CHCF for five years. These need to be “clean” funding bills. That means not making structural changes to CHIP, no rolling back funding or eligibility requirements, and not attaching changes to any other health care programs to either funding package.
This is an opportunity for Congress to show the country that it can get something done to protect people’s health care. The health of millions depends on it and it needs to be done now.