Congressional Republicans are letting vital health programs for children and low-income Americans expire, choosing to forego working through tomorrow to reauthorize the programs before the fiscal year ends Saturday at midnight. One state—Utah—is warning of pending disaster if the Congress doesn’t get this done fast.
Utah health officials submitted their intentions to close an insurance program for children in low- to middle-income families if Congress does not reauthorize its funding.
The state’s Division of Medicaid and Health Financing sent a letter Sept. 15 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which outlined its plan to close its Children’s Health Insurance Program if Congress fails to renew its funding by its deadline Saturday. Without the necessary federal dollars, division spokeswoman Kolbi Young said the program’s funding will run out by the end of the year.
The federal and state program provides wellness exams, immunizations, doctors visits, prescriptions and other forms of health care to nearly 20,000 children in Utah. The kids typically come from families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, the federal and state insurance program for low-income people.
Utah taking the lead here is significant, since it’s their senior senator—Republican Orrin Hatch—who is responsible for the reauthorization as chairman of the Finance Committee. That makes him responsible for the 20,000 kids in Utah and for the nearly 9 million children and pregnant women on the program nation-wide. The lack of urgency he’s demonstrating in getting this done isn’t just a problem for Utah. A handful of other states don’t have enough funds in reserve to keep their programs running until the end of the year, and most states won’t have enough to extend far into next year.
This is after Hatch and his ranking member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) reached an agreement to not just fund the program, but extend funding for five years. That was two weeks ago, and then all progress came to a screeching halt. It was more important to Senate Republicans to turn all their attention to the latest harebrained Trumpcare scheme, and for House Republicans to work on their plan for tax cuts for the rich.
Maybe the warning from Utah will be enough to light a fire under Hatch and the funding will be approved before lasting damage is done. To this program, anyway.