Last month, Congress failed to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance to 9 million children in the United States. States across the country, uncertain of federal funding, began to prepare for the worst as program funds dried up. We are pleased to report that there is a movement in Congress to ensure that tens of thousands of Nebraska kids do not experience a lapse in essential health coverage. However, we remain concerned about the fiscal offsets contained in HR 3921, also referred to as the KIDS Act of 2017. The fiscal offsets could harm other critical programs supporting children and families, including Medicaid.
Since its creation, CHIP has significantly reduced the number of uninsured children in the country, covering children in families who are ineligible for Medicaid coverage. Today, health coverage for children is at an all-time-high– in 2016, 95% of Nebraska children had health insurance. Many of the children covered by CHIP, over 35,000 children last year, would not otherwise have access to important preventive health care. Data on Medicaid and CHIP show that when children have access to preventative services such as routine check-ups, immunizations, dental, behavioral health, and developmental health, we all benefit because child mortality decreases, hospitalization of children decreases, and an overall increase in coverage and better health will improve education performance.
To ensure Nebraskan children grow up to be healthy, happy, and successful adults, an investment must be made to ensure access to quality and affordable health care. In 2015, providing one child in Nebraska with CHIP and Medicaid only cost $268 per month, a considerably low price compared to other states. If CHIP does not receive adequate funding, all of its positive achievements will be reversed and the rate of uninsured children would likely increase. As a program that has historically had strong bipartisan support, CHIP is supported nationwide for having shown efficacy in providing children with health care. We hope to see more progress from Congress in the upcoming weeks to pass CHIP legislation that will improve the well-being of Nebraskan children.