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Former Congressman Dr. Phil Gingrey provides public policy and government relations counsel to clients on a variety of issues. Here at Phil on the Hill, Phil draws upon his long career in public service to provide perspective and context on policy topics such as health care, the federal budget, annual appropriations, regulatory reform, and life sciences.

Congress Should Reauthorize CHIP ASAP

Monday, November 27, 2017

When I served the U.S. House, it used to be that there were a handful of issues where partisanship was not a factor and policymaking for the sake of the children was paramount. 

One such issue was the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers almost 9 million children across the country. CHIP provides comprehensive health care coverage for children whose parents earn too much to be on Medicaid, but not enough to afford commercial health insurance. Our state version of the program, PeachCare for Kids, serves more than 124,000 Georgia children by providing them with primary, preventive, specialist, dental care and vision care.

This widely popular, bipartisan program, created in 1997 when Republican Orrin Hatch and liberal stalwart Democrat Ted Kennedy joined forces in the Senate, continues to enjoy strong, bipartisan support in today’s Congress. Yet, the bill to reauthorize the program has gotten bogged down in partisan disagreements over how to pay for it. An unfortunate development that has led to the program’s authorization expiring on October 1st of this year.

The disagreements center on how to pay for the five-year reauthorization, not whether the program should be extended. Some might ask, at a time when this country has amassed debt equal to our national GDP, can we afford to continue to pay for this level of care for so many children? It is a good question and it is one I want to face squarely, instead of rejecting as some would out of hand. As a fiscal conservative in Congress, I supported – and now as a private citizen, I continue to support – making hard choices to reduce further use of the national credit card. 

However, if Congress allows CHIP to languish, it would not only be cold-hearted. It would be fiscally imprudent. In previous years, we were able to come to agreement on the policy and the payments and I am hopeful my former colleagues can do so again – soon.

As a fiscal conservative as well as a physician, I believe our choice is easy. When we think about the physical and fiscal health of our country, we must plan for the long-term. By taking care of children’s health now, we ensure healthier and more productive adults – future adults who will hold jobs, pay taxes, defend our nation and be able to raise healthy children of their own. To my colleagues in Congress, I say – reauthorize CHIP and work out a compromise on the pay-fors – for the children and for the nation’s collective well-being.