Let's begin the new year without the deaths of children on our hands — renew CHIP

Let's begin the new year without the deaths of children on our hands — renew CHIP
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Showing utter disdain for our nation's most vulnerable children, Congress still has not renewed funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Created in 1997, CHIP provides health insurance for almost 9 million low income children who do not qualify for Medicaid but yet cannot afford private health coverage.

Funding for CHIP expired at the end of September and various flimsy stop-gap measures, including authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to redistribute unused CHIP funds from states with surpluses to states with deficits, are rapidly being exhausted. Now sixteen states including California, Texas, and Florida will run out of funds by next month. Twenty-one more will use all remaining funds by March 2018.  

As the richest nation in the history of the world, the United States is morally bankrupt if it cannot take care of its own children.  


Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans seem to have their priorities more set on hurting people than on helping kids. Instead of renewing CHIP, they devoted all their attention trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip healthcare from millions of Americans. Fortunately, they failed multiple times and ultimately gave up. 

Now they are pre-occupied trying to pass a 1.5 trillion dollar tax bill giving each household in the top 0.1 percent an average $360,430 in tax breaks, paid for by deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

It almost seems as if Republicans would rather strip health insurance from children on Medicaid than renew health insurance for children who just missed its cutoff. That's like watching someone drown in the pool, but instead of helping that person, finding some other kid to throw in too.

The priorities of Republican lawmakers would be laughable were they not so incredibly cruel.

In fact, CHIP pays for the lifesaving treatments children with serious and chronic diseases desperately need. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 200,000 children in America have diabetes, many of whom require insulin to survive. Type 1 diabetes, in which the body cannot produce its own insulin, predominantly affects children.

They can even fall into a dangerous state called diabetic ketoacidosis, in which uncontrolled blood sugars causes massive dehydration and shock, sometimes resulting in coma and death.

Some diseases, especially congenital malformations of the heart, kidney, or lung, exclusively affect children. It is simply unconscionable for our government to jeopardize their lives in a political game of misplaced priorities.

Before our Congressional representatives go home for their holiday breaks, we must demand they renew CHIP so that our nation's children can live through their Christmas too. It seems outrageous that at the end of 2017, the greatest gift we can give our children is asking our lawmakers not to let them die on the streets.

We must renew CHIP without preconditions. Republicans in Congress were elected to serve the American people, but it seems as if they just swore an oath to do more harm. Not only can we not let this stand, we owe it to our children to stop this madness immediately. Let's begin the new year without the deaths of our children on our hands. Let's renew CHIP.

Dr. Eugene Gu is a resident physician at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and president of the Ganogen Research Institute. He graduated from Stanford University with honors and holds an M.D. from the Duke University School of Medicine.