Refusing to act on CHIP, Congress makes boldest move yet to ignore the will of the people

Refusing to act on CHIP, Congress makes boldest move yet to ignore the will of the people
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With single party control, the 115th Congress continues to threaten economic stability and health of virtually every American with vast, far-reaching legislation.

In recent months, Congress proposed Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal to take away health care from millions of American, tax cuts for the wealthy, and immigration policy — to say nothing of its failure to act as an oversight authority on the White House’s racially motivated executive orders and possible collusion.

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But while failure to repeal the ACA and the dysfunction coming from the White House has dominated the headlines, Congress has been able to avoid media scrutiny and quietly let one of the most popular programs in the country expire: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

 

In the past, funding CHIP has been one of the least controversial decisions that Congress makes. In 2015, an even more Republican dominated House and Senate reauthorized CHIP by huge margins: 392-37 and 92-8 in the House and Senate, respectively.

It’s of the utmost importance to nearly all Americans: According to a September 2017 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, three-fourths of Americans say it’s important for Congress to reauthorize funding for CHIP. Moreover, November's election is further proof that the public wants action to secure patient protections: Seventy percent of Virginia voters said health care was either the most important or a very important issue in deciding who they voted for in the Governor's face.

Despite this, only one Republican proposal to fund CHIP passed the House, but would kick 700,000 Americans off their insurance to pay for the funding extension but is likely to be prohibitively unpopular in the Senate. We’re not going to pat House leadership on the back just for voting on a bill they know will be dead on arrival in the Senate; this issue needs leadership, not token votes on bills that won’t solve the problem.

With the electorate increasingly polarized, the overwhelming support for CHIP should show Congress just how vital this program is. But instead of putting aside partisan squabbles to ensure that no child loses coverage, Congress has let CHIP funding expire, leaving 9 million children covered by CHIP in the lurch.

Americans who rely on CHIP don’t care about political posturing or the horse trading happening in Washington: They just want the program funded to make sure their children can get the care they need.

Given Congress’ inaction on this important program, it should come as no surprise that since CHIP’s funding expired, just 51 members of Congress have met with their constituents. In fact, 165 member of Congress haven’t held a single public forum with their constituents this year.

At Town Hall Project, we believe that an effective and responsive government depends on lawmakers listening to the people who elected them, and allowing CHIP’s funding to expire is no exception. It shows a profound disconnect between the actions of Congress and the will of the people they’re supposed to represent.

The time for inaction is over. Congressional leadership needs to bring both sides of the aisle to the table and find a solution that refunds CHIP and maintains the health insurance protections that help millions of Americans live fully, healthy lives.

Listen to the people who elected you: Stop playing political games with children’s lives and fund CHIP.

Jimmy Dahman is the founder of Town Hall Project, a grassroots organization created to help Americans have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives. Dahman has campaigned with a number of progressive efforts, including Hillary for America 2016 and Enroll America. Follow Town Hall Project on Twitter at @townhallproject.