COLUMN: The U.S. Senate must act now to save funding for Children's Health Insurance Program
Funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, otherwise known as CHIP, is close to running out. Authorization for spending on this program expired earlier this year, and Colorado's funds will be depleted by the end of January 2018.
The House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act last month to extend funding for CHIP, as well as community health centers and other critical public-health programs. These programs are essential to providing access to health care for many families across the 3rd Congressional District, state and nation, and I was proud to work with my colleagues to send a bill to the Senate to ensure they remain funded.
The Senate must now act.
This week, families throughout Colorado who rely on CHIP for their children's health care, received letters from state officials, urging them to look for other coverage options in the event that the Senate does not pass the funding extension soon. Without Senate action by late December 2017, Colorado will be required to send out official notices of the CHIP program's cancellation. Colorado is not the only state whose funds are set to expire. Arizona, California, Minnesota and Ohio are also on the brink of running out of money for this critical program.
CHIP is very important for thousands of Coloradans and millions of Americans. This program was established 20 years ago with the intention of helping families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be able to afford private health insurance. While not perfect, this program is the reason 75,000 children in Colorado and 9 million children across the nation have health benefits.
The Championing Healthy Kids Act would extend funding for CHIP through the fiscal year 2022, ensuring that children from lower-income families continue to receive coverage. On top of that, this legislation would extend funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers for two years through the Community Health Center Fund. Federally Qualified Health Centers are critical, as these community-based, patient-centered organizations successfully provide wide-ranging health services to medically underserved populations throughout Colorado.
I urge my colleagues in the Senate to get to work and find a way to put politics aside to extend funding for CHIP. Time is running out, and failure is not an option.