Wolf pushes for reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program

Pennsylvania became the latest state to take on the ticking countdown clock that could show the end of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

CHIP is a program jointly funded by the federal government and individual states that provides health care coverage to qualifying kids — the ones whose parents can’t afford to pay for insurance but whose income isn’t low enough to merit medical assistance. Nationwide, 8.9 million kids are covered under the program, according to Medicaid statistical information for 2016.

The program expired on Sept. 30, and some states are starting to approach the end of their funding.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf addressed the issue in a statement.

“Right now, the Republican-controlled Congress is steamrolling through a massive tax cut for the ultra-wealthy. Yet, it has not found time to simply reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program that benefits more than 9 million children and expecting mothers,” Wolf said. “This is a complete abdication of responsibility and it is creating unnecessary anxiety for families around the holidays.”

Wolf said Pennsylvania will run out of funding in the first quarter of 2018.

“But some states will not be as lucky,” Wolf said.

Among states in critical need is Ohio, where the program’s $15 billion well will go dry by New Year’s Eve.

Wolf pointed to other votes from the current Congress that show quick action, such as pushes for tax reform and Obamacare repeal, although neither of those has been successful.

“By letting this program expire and languish, Congress is telling 176,000 kids in Pennsylvania that they don’t care about them. Our children should be Congress’ top priority, not forced to the backburner,” Wolf said in his statement. “These families deserve better from Washington and they should reauthorize CHIP before one child suffers as a result of their inaction.”

The House of Representatives has already done part of the work. This month, the House passed a reauthorization bill that then went to the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, hit back at Wolf.

“The governor has made a feeble attempt to drive a partisan wedge into a program that has received strong bipartisan support. With its roots in Pennsylvania, it’s a shame that CHIP has found its way into the governor’s political playbook,” he said.

Thompson, who represents Pennsylvania’s 5th District, said the Senate is working toward reauthorizing CHIP “well before Pennsylvania’s program will run out of funding.”

“With regard to tax reform, perhaps the governor missed the fact that every American will have their rates lowered and the bill also enhances the child tax credit — in order to make sure that Pennsylvania’s kids remain the priority they truly are, and not merely pawns for his partisan attacks,” Thompson said.

State statistics show Centre County has 1,056 kid enrolled in CHIP, up 3 percent over the past two months. Surrounding county enrollment includes: Blair, 1,920; Cambria, 1,747; Clearfield, 1,160; Clinton, 511; Huntingdon, 640; Mifflin, 729; and Union, 545. The average increase is about 4 percent since October.

Throughout the 5th District, 11,468 children are enrolled in CHIP across 15 counties.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce