Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill to keep the government open for another three weeks (until February 8) and extend the funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another six years. The program, jointly funded by states and the federal government, provides coverage to uninsured children who are not eligible for Medicaid but whose families cannot afford private coverage. The funding for the CHIP program originally expired in September 2017 and its reauthorization was delayed for over 100 days, with the health and wellbeing of the 9 million children who benefit from the program hanging in the balance.
Caught in a political battle to protect immigrants who were brought to the US as minors through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the government shut down on Saturday January 20. On Monday, Senators finally agreed on a 3 week plan that included funding CHIP for six years. This is certainly a success for all of us who have advocated for renewed funding for CHIP, a program that has historically received overwhelming bipartisan support and reauthorization since its creation in 1997. What is puzzling is that Congress had a choice to make this program permanent or at least extend it by 10 years and save the taxpayers $6 billion by doing so. Congress still has an opportunity to capture these savings and stabilize this important program in the coming months.
However, Congress has failed repeatedly to extend funding for the nation’s community health centers which also expired in September. These centers provide a range of essential services for 27 million Americans and the centers will lose $3.6 billion this year if the funds are not renewed. Many health centers have started reducing services including opioid treatment and prenatal care because of the uncertainty surrounding their funding.
Members of Congress have said that they will tackle this funding in the next spending bill three weeks from now. It is our job to make sure they know that access to quality and timely care is important in community health centers as well as for children in the CHIP program. We will continue to keep you up to date as the funding debates continue, and ask that you talk about the need for funding for community health centers with your friends, family, neighbors, and elected officials. Make sure you are signed up with our Grassroots Advocacy Network to receive updates like these, breaking news, and opportunities for engagement with your elected officials on issues that matter to those impacted by cancer.