Taking health care from babies
December 12, 2017
"We're in an unprecedented situation. We've never seen anything like this happen before." Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families, on Congress' delay in funding the Children's Health insurance Program.
On Oct. 1, funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired. This 20-year-old program, which covers about nine million children nationwide, was signed into law in 1997 and has had bipartisan support since then.
"CHIP helped lower the rate of uninsured children from 14 percent in 1997 to 4.5 percent in 2015, providing much-needed coverage for routine check-ups, prescriptions, dental and vision care, emergency services, and other critical health care needs." (Think Progress, on Nov. 20, 2017)
CHIP provides health insurance for children of lower- and middle-income families who earn too much for Medicaid but can't afford private health insurance. The program also provides insurance for 370,000 pregnant women each year.
In Nevada, CHIP is called Nevada Check-up and covers about 25,000 Nevada children. Funding for Nevada Check-up was projected to run out in late November-December. Other states will run out of funds by March 2018. Millions of children are at risk of losing their health insurance because Congress seems unable to act.
"But if Congress doesn't renew funding until 2018, lives will be endangered, as children and pregnant women will begin to see their coverage lapse and lose their access to health care. Reenrollment will be expensive and time-consuming, and care will be disrupted." (Ken Janda, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 13, 2017).
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The life-threatening consequences of not funding this program are very real. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan CHIP bill. Republican Senate leadership is holding up the Senate vote on this program. Why would they do this?
The "pro-life" party has been too busy trying to kill Obamacare and pass their latest tax plan, to pay attention to saving children's lives. Their tax plan would kick millions of people off of health insurance while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy and raising taxes on the non-wealthy.
Republicans are willing to let babies die from lack of health care while they rush to pass this poisonous plan. If someone doesn't understand Republican priorities by now, they either aren't paying attention or they think it's fine for children to die while Congress works to give the wealthy more money.
When Donald Trump was running for president, he promised better, cheaper health care for everyone. After he won, it turned out that he didn't have any plan ready; neither did the Republican Congress. They still have nothing to offer and seem willing to let millions of Americans, including children, lose the health coverage they have now.
Trump has never cared if the American people have affordable health care. If he did, he would be urging Congress to pass the CHIP program. His indifference to children getting the health care they need was illustrated perfectly by the way he treated his great-nephew William Trump, who was born with life-threatening health problems.
Trump's older brother, Fred Trump II, died in 1981, age 43. He had a son, Fred Trump III, Trump's nephew. Days after Trump's father died in June 1999, Fred III's wife went into labor. The baby, William, was born with "a rare neurological disorder that produces violent seizures, brain damage and medical bills topping $300,000." (New York Daily News, 12/19/2000)
Fred Sr. had promised that the family would take care of the baby's medical bills. When Fred III found he was cut out of his grandfather's will, he sued. In retaliation, Donald Trump cut off the money for baby William's expensive medical care. Trump told a reporter, "I was angry because they sued….Why should we give him [the baby] medical coverage?" (New York Daily News, 12/19/2000)
William is now 18 and can't walk, talk, or take care of himself. Trump had no problem taking away necessary life-saving medical care from his great-nephew because he was angry at the baby's father, his own nephew. Why would it bother him to cut millions of other children off of their health care?
Some people may ask, as Trump did, "Why should we give these children medical coverage?" Quoting Ken Janda again, "Frankly, we all benefit from having healthier children and moms whose care is covered by insurance providing care via pediatricians, OB-GYNs, clinics and hospitals."
Republicans claim to be pro-life. Protecting the lives of babies and children should be at the top of their list of priorities. Using children's lives as political pawns is not only irresponsible, it is evil.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.