The Columbus Dispatch - - Na­tion&world - Jwehrman@dis­ @jes­si­cawehrman

They haven’t, how­ever, told her how they would pay for the pro­gram if the fed­eral dol­lars dry up.

Cre­ated in 1997, the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram gives states fi­nan­cial sup­port to ex­pand pub­licly funded cov­er­age to unin­sured chil­dren who are not el­i­gi­ble for Med­i­caid. CHIP works by giv­ing states block grants that must be matched with state dol­lars.

Joan Alker, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies at George­town Univer­sity, wor­ries about the fam­i­lies who will re­ceive no­ti­fi­ca­tion that Congress hasn’t acted. Those

fam­i­lies, she said, might not sign up their chil­dren even if fund­ing is re­stored.

In states that run the pro­gram through the Med­i­caid pro­gram, a fi­nan­cial hit is in­evitable. States “are walk­ing such a fine line,” she said. “They don’t want to alarm fam­i­lies, but they can’t wait for­ever be­cause they have to run a pro­gram … a lot of states are re­ally on the edge right now.”

CHIP tra­di­tion­ally has re­ceived over­whelm­ing sup­port, and Ohio’s two sen­a­tors re­main sup­port­ive.

“I strongly sup­port the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram,” said Repub­li­can Rob Port­man. “And I would urge the Se­nate to pass our bi­par­ti­san pro­posal as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

Demo­crat Sher­rod Brown also con­sid­ers it a no–brainer.

“This place is so dys­func­tional … that all over the coun­try now fam­i­lies are get­ting let­ters say­ing ‘Health in­sur­ance is go­ing to be cut off for your chil­dren,’” he said. “To let those let­ters go out — it’s just damn near crim­i­nal.”

Brown blames GOP lead­er­ship for pri­or­i­tiz­ing the tax bill over reau­tho­riz­ing CHIP. The House passed a bill in early No­vem­ber to ex­tend

the pro­gram for five years, do­ing so in part by rais­ing Medi­care rates for wealth­ier se­niors. And the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee also passed a bill ex­tend­ing the pro­gram last month. But the full Se­nate has yet to take up the mea­sure.

“It doesn’t fit within their goals,” Brown said.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans think Congress will ex­tend the pro­gram when it passes a gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill in mid-De­cem­ber.

Still, the de­lay has been mad­den­ing for ad­vo­cates such as Slaugh­ter.

“This is some­thing ev­ery­one wants to do,” she said. “Why is this so hard?”



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