Congress to sick kids in Delaware: Drop dead, maybe

(Rob Tornoe/for WHYY)

(Rob Tornoe/for WHYY)

A couple days ago, 2017 came and went, and with it hope that Congress would come to the aid of millions of kids in Delaware and all across the country depending on them for their health care.

Congress did offer the equivalent of a fiscal Band-Aid for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by including some stopgap funding that extending the program in Delaware through January- but well short of the $14 billion a year the program requires.

With election looming and an unsettling amount of volatility in the Trump White House (which certainly isn’t going to calm down after the release of Michael Wolff’s damning new book), it’s looking more and more likely that 2018 will see politicians kick the can down the road in terms of our children’s healthcare, or even worse – not fund the program at all.

It’s mind-boggling how we’ve gotten to this point. CHIP has been a popular program among members of both political parties since its introduction in 1997, so the fact that it has become a victim to the rabid partisanship that has enveloped Washington is troubling, to say the least. Bipartisan support exists here in Delaware, too – all 14 members of the Delaware House Health Committee (made up of both Republicans and Democrats) urged Congress to reauthorize CHIP funding.

The squabbling has left parents and pediatricians across the country shaking their heads in disgust, while here in Delaware 8,300 children nervously wait to see if they’ll be able to receive the basic medial care they could suddenly lose, through no fault of their own.

“There’s going to be a large group of kids, some of them who are medically vulnerable, who don’t have access to care,” Dr. Jonathan Miller, the division chief for general pediatrics at Nemours/A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children, told the News Journal.

Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester was less diplomatic, calling the potential loss of funding “devastating.”

What’s worse is the program, which helps 9 million kids nationwide, likely pays for itself by reducing the likelihood of lifelong chronic disease thanks to the vaccines and developmental care children with receive.

“CHIP is probably one of the most successful government programs we’ve enacted in the last couple of decades,” Timothy McBride, a professor of health economics at Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR.

Even someone as cynical as myself never thought we’d get to the point where the health care of children was threatened by the dysfunction and outright neglect of our elected officials in Washington, who managed to roll up their sleeves and pass tax cuts that overwhelming favors the most fortunate in our country while leaving needy kids out in the cold.

But that’s where we are. Timmy’s surgery or Taylor’s next vaccination might just have to wait for that money to trickle down their way. You know, America First.

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Rob Tornoe is a writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a WHYY contributor. Let him know what you think on Twitter @RobTornoe

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