Ruth: Congress should find money for Children’s Health Insurance Program

Dr. Jonathan Miller checks Jay Dennis, 3, at a clinic run by the Nemours Childrenâ\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0099s Health System in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 30, 2017. The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a program whose federal funds ran out Sept. 30, is an unexpected victim of the partisan rancor that has stymied legislative action in Washington this year. (Mark Makela/The New York Times) XNYT109
Dr. Jonathan Miller checks Jay Dennis, 3, at a clinic run by the Nemours Childrenâ\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0099s Health System in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 30, 2017. The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a program whose federal funds ran out Sept. 30, is an unexpected victim of the partisan rancor that has stymied legislative action in Washington this year. (Mark Makela/The New York Times) XNYT109
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You would think even the Maynard G. Krebs characters in Congress who do little actual work would come to the assistance of nearly 9 million children on the cusp of losing their health coverage.

Perhaps thatís not entirely fair. After all, this Congress has been ever diligent in sticking it to the poor and the middle class to protect the portfolios of the affluent. Yachts donít grow on trees, you know. Priorities.

For the past two decades, at least one government program has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. The Childrenís Health Insurance Program provides access to medical care for the children of families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but canít afford coverage through their jobs. Under the $14 billion CHIP program, about 9 million children are able to receive medical care.

In Florida, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the state receives $616 million in CHIP funding to treat about 374,000 children. But keep those numbers to yourself, lest Gov. Rick Scott, the Snidely Whiplash of Tallahassee, finds out and decides to reject the money in favor of simply giving kids a Band-Aid and some Vicks VapoRub.

CHIP is a rare government program that works. And that probably explains why Congress may blow it up. If Washington allows a government program to actually work, the great unwashed will expect Congress to accomplish stuff. Imagine the pressure to show up on the job and produce results. Where does it end?

Funding for CHIP was put at risk in the midst of partisan sniping over the federal budget. Because Congress could not come together, federal money for CHIP expired on Sept. 30, and to date the Kato Kaelins of Congress have not been able to find their keisters with the help of NASA, NORAD or NOAA, much less step up to help 9 million children with health issues.

Parents in some states are now being notified they may not be able to rely on CHIP for the care of their children. In Washington, this is merely a political pie fight. To the parents of an ill child, itís a nightmare.

Imagine a mother and father with a child afflicted with spina bifida, or Hodgkinís disease, or asthma, or diabetes, being told by your government that their little boy or girl doesnít matter because Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are preoccupied making stink eyes at each other.

Across the Capitol, politicians stride purposefully back and forth giving the impression they are engaged in the vital work of the country ó very important people, looking very important, delivering totally meaningless, but nonetheless very important sound-bites attesting to their importance. Fake governance?

Meanwhile, as the clock clicks away, parents in Florida and everywhere else are at a loss to figure out how to pay for their childís medications, or surgeries, or therapies.

Yet another day in the journey of making (cough, cough, wheeze, wheeze) America great again.

One of the classic hypocritical American canards are all the politicians who claim how much they love the children, how the blessed children are our future and how everything they do ó from accepting legalized bribes from special interests, to hitting on the innocent intern ó is all in the service of the nationís greatest resource (altogether, now) Ö the children.

And itís all a steaming pile of balderdash.

Imagine the likes of McConnell and Ryan sitting across from a parent to explain the reason their child might die without heart surgery is because Congress is more hapless than Moe, Larry and Curly. How comforting.

If Washington truly gave a ratís patootie about the children, it would put aside the posturing, the preening, the politics of gamesmanship and immediately address fully funding CHIP to give millions of parents the peace of mind they deserve.

This shouldnít be that hard. The families dependent on CHIP are Republicans and Democrats, conservative and liberal.

But what they have in common is they are financially strapped. And thanks to Congress it is only going to get worse ó in more ways than one.

If Congress fails to act soon, some of those revered children could die from a fatal dose of indifference.

So much for all the contrived breast-beating about the sanctity of life.

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