I am writing to express my anguish and deep disappointment in Republican controlled Congress in delaying funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) - which has been a Bi-partisan initiative since 1997 and which covers around 9 Million Children nationwide and 68,500 Children in Virginia. A third of states anticipate exhausting CHIP funding by the end of January, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report out earlier in December.
Federal funding for CHIP expired in September and now Congress has to act by Friday to pass the $3 billion funding plan or else 2 million kids across the country will lose coverage.
"This action highlights Congress' continued inability and failure to prioritize and protect the health of children and a very popular and successful program". Though there is bipartisan support, Congress has yet to reauthorize the program and Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is critical of the inaction.
"Tens of thousands of Alabama working families learned today - one week before Christmas - that their children will lose health insurance February 1 if Congress continues to delay funding" for the program, said Jim Carnes, policy director of the Arise Citizens' Policy Project, an advocacy group for low-income families.
Some states that are almost out of money are preparing to freeze enrollment or cancel CHIP coverage if lawmakers don't soon reach a deal.
At the program's core lay an offer no state could refuse - if it developed a children's health care program, the federal government would reimburse 88 percent of its costs. Since then, some states have relied on unspent funds to keep it going.
Alabama CHIP director, Cathy Caldwell, said many of those families are starting to panic.
Lawmakers are scrambling to pass a bill to keep the government funded through January 19.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg Walden of OR, said last week that the CHIP extension will be included in the short-term government funding bill to be considered by lawmakers later this week. The 20-year-old program cost about $15.6 billion in fiscal 2016, funded nearly entirely by the federal government.
The temporary funds would be approved by a continuing resolution bill and the Senate needs to vote on that too.
Democrats had been hammering Republicans for passing their sweeping tax-cut legislation while CHIP remained in limbo, arguing it would leave millions of families who depend upon the program uncertain over their future at the holidays.