PORTLAND, Ore. – Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici on Friday called on Congress to stop holding hostage the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and to pass the bipartisan bill that would fund the program.
“Children’s health care is too important to play political games with,” Governor Brown said. “CHIP makes all the difference to thousands of Oregon’s families and the anxiety caused by this uncertainty takes a toll on their well-being. Federal leaders should unite, put aside political gamesmanship and fund the CHIP program. Unfortunately, majority leadership in Congress is focused on looking out for the wealthy and well-connected. Here in Oregon we’re focused on the people, not the powerful.”
“The fact that CHIP is being used as a pawn in cynical political machinations makes my blood boil,” Sen. Merkley said. “The majority leadership in Congress is using the health and well-being of tens of thousands of children in Oregon and 9 million children across the country as a bargaining chip to win concessions in budget negotiations. Children’s health care has been a bipartisan priority in the past. It’s a sad example of the extremists’ hold over one of our political parties that moms and dads need to take time away from their jobs and kids to remind this Congress that health care for children matters.”
“Parents deserve certainty that their children can get the care they need,” Congressman Blumenauer said. “It’s disgraceful that Republicans in Congress continue to hold children’s health hostage. It’s past time Republicans stop their attacks on health care and work with us to extend this critical program. The health of millions of kids—including tens of thousands in Oregon—depends on it.”
“As a mom and a member of Congress, I am dismayed by the failure of Congressional leadership to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the long-term,” Congresswoman Bonamici said. “This historically bipartisan program provides health care to millions of kids in Oregon and across the country, and a short-term solution is unacceptable. Also Republicans just added about $1.5 trillion to the debt with their tax bill, and they are now insisting that we cut prevention and public health programs to pay for children’s health insurance. That’s wrong, especially when we need to address the opioid crisis. I will do everything I can to protect health care for Oregon kids and families.”
Federal funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017 — 97 days ago — after Congress failed to extend the program. Every state in America has a CHIP program and contributes funds to it.
Oregon’s program, called Oregon Healthy Kids, in 2016 helped more than 140,000 children access health care. Thanks to CHIP, 23,075 children from the Portland metro area last year were able to access check-ups, immunizations, dental care, doctors’ visits, and other important health care services. CHIP has been reauthorized by wide bipartisan margins since first introduced in 1997.
Thanks to the leadership of Chair Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, a bipartisan bill that would extend CHIP for five years has already passed the Senate Finance Committee with unanimous support. However, the Senate majority has not allowed it to be brought to the floor, holding children health care hostage when a bipartisan deal is possible. Instead, the Republican majority included a short-ter mextension of the program in a continuing appropriations bill that was passed in late December.