Photo credit: Ron Cogswell (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Ron Cogswell (CC-By-2.0)

For parents in Iowa and across the country, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of their family. Especially their children. And for too many, financial hurdles sometimes stand in their way of ensuring their children receive the health care they need.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1977 to help families who made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but didn’t make enough to pay for health insurance for their children. So, together, CHIP and Medicaid work to insure nine million children across the country through a jointly funded program with each state.

Over the past few months, I have been hearing from Iowans – parents and advocates for children – about the need to extend funding for CHIP. This critical program helps insure around 85,000 Iowa children.

In rural areas, like much of Iowa’s Third Congressional District, 47 percent of children get their insurance through either CHIP or Medicaid. That’s almost half the kids in the 16 counties making up the Third District.

Investing in CHIP helps ensure kids get the proper health care they need to be active and healthy, and helps put parents’ minds at ease. When kids start off their lives healthier they tend to stay healthy and pay less in health care costs throughout their lives. And that’s good for everyone.

Despite nearly 20 years of extending CHIP in a bipartisan fashion, under Republican and Democratic leadership, the program’s funding is currently moving along through short patchwork fixes. And that’s wrong. Iowa’s children need a long-term fix and commitment which provides them certainty and gives parents confidence and an ease of mind.

Last fall, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a five-year extension of the CHIP program with my support and the support of most of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, it was never brought to a vote in the Senate. While action in the Senate stalls, both parties have politicized an issue which should be above politics: our children’s health.

I have been calling on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together and restore the bi-partisanship we have previously shared on this issue. Both parties have already agreed in principle to fund CHIP for five years, yet we still haven’t done so. Yes, this is ridiculous.

The fact Congress cannot muster the ability to pass a long-term extension of CHIP funding is confounding to say the least. While no state has run out of money, state government officials are preparing for the worst, leaving some parents worried about the health of their children.

We must act now. But we needed to act months ago. While Iowa won’t run out of money this month, other states could run out of money as soon as January 19 which would leave hundreds of thousands of families and children without health insurance.

Iowans deserve better and expect more than inaction and partisan games and political brinkmanship. It is far past time for members of Congress from both parties to work together to fund a program we all support.

I remain ready to join with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to advance this important matter and fund this critical program for the health of our kids. As your Representative, it’s my mission to continue bringing Iowa commonsense and highlight our priorities to Congress. And ensuring CHIP is there for families and children who need it most is one of the most commonsense steps we can take together.

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