Radio Address: Congress must protect health care for 22,300 Maine children

Posted: October 20, 2017 | Senator Millett, Weekly Radio Address

Hello, this is Senator Rebecca Millett. Thanks for tuning in.

In 2009, President Barack Obama said: “No child in America should be receiving her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night. No child should be falling behind in school because he can’t hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our kids fail to reach their potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations — health care for our children is one of those obligations.”

President Obama gave those remarks eight years ago as Congress reauthorized funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or “CHIP.” The program has earned bipartisan support since it was created in 1997 because care for our nation’s children is not a partisan concern.

Like so much of our health care system, the fate of CHIP has been tangled up in the fight over the Affordable Care Act. Funding for the program expired in September, and Congress has failed to reauthorize funding.

The 9 million American kids covered by CHIP have been left on the bargaining table, their access to health care left to the whims of bickering partisans on Capitol Hill. Among those are more than 22,300 Maine kids whose coverage could disappear overnight if Congress doesn’t get its act together.

Over the past generation, CHIP has been an undeniable success. It has given more children the healthy foundation they need as they grow from infants to toddlers to children to young adults. Working families, stuck in low-wage jobs and struggling to get by, were no longer left in the lurch when their children got sick. Before CHIP, these families fell through the cracks — they made just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but didn’t make nearly enough to pay for private insurance. For those families, a sudden illness or injury meant the difference between subsistence and destitution.

Fifty-nine of my colleagues in the Maine Legislature, including both Democrats and Republicans, joined me in sending a letter to our congressional delegation last week. In it, we urged them to work quickly and across the aisle to bring stability back to those families whose children receive coverage through CHIP.

Those 9 million American children don’t deserve to be pawns in Congress’s fight over the Affordable Care Act. Those 22,300 Mainers should not lose coverage because politicians forgot that their actions, or inaction, have real consequences in people’s lives.

Babies aren’t born Democrats or Republicans. They are born innocent, vulnerable, and deserving of society’s care. Members of Congress must restore funding for CHIP, or forever live with themselves knowing they chose gridlock and partisanship at the expense of children’s health.

This is Senator Rebecca Millet. Thanks for listening.