CHIP should not be a political football

Imagine having to choose between making a mortgage payment and taking a sick child to the doctor. This could happen, in your neighborhood, on your street, to someone you love.

A generation of children has grown up, and their parents have cared for them, with the children’s insurance program, known as CHIP (Childrens Health Insurance Program). These kids and parents have been sheltered by the guarantee that kids can have health care no matter what happens to a family’s jobs, savings, and local economy. Whether there is a lay-off, an illness, or a slowdown at work, parents have taken comfort in knowing that their children will be able to see their pediatricians without putting the family into financial turmoil.

Unfortunately, CHIP has become a political football. If you look at the website for the current 44th district representative, you will see a lot about making gambling available, but nothing about doing the same for children’s health care. Michele Knoll sees things differently.

Michele is proud of Pennsylvania’s pioneering work in taking care of children. Bipartisan votes in Pennsylvania’s legislature created our own CHIP in 1992. Early on, we started providing the health care access that supports our children and parents. Five years later, in 1997, our nation used Pennsylvania’s program as a model to change children’s and their parents’ lives: the uninsured children are now assured of care, the worried parents now feel safe.

The US Congress, in the current budget debate, used the CHIP program as a negotiating tactic. The budget resolution that Congress passed on January 22nd included funding for CHIP, but we are still in danger: this continuing resolution (CR) only keeps the government open until February 8th and there are no guarantees that CHIP won’t again be used as a negotiating point as Congress continues to wrangle over a long-term budget deal. Pennsylvanians can take comfort in that our state has done a better job managing CHIP funds than other states. Some states actually ran out of funds during the recent defunding attempt in Congress while Pennsylvania’s funds were projected to last until March.

As Michele says: “Children’s health and well being are paramount for children to be able to thrive in the classroom. If they aren’t feeling well or are hungry and are unable to access good medical care or nutritional food, then they will not be able to learn and become productive citizens in our state. We must prioritize children’s health care over funding for walls to keep people out when most illegal immigrants arrive via airports. Practically speaking, children’s health care must get more funding and attention than pipe or wall dreams.”

Michele has devoted her life to children as an educator, advocate, and school board director. It’s time to bring both heart and leadership to the 44th.