While Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) are working on bipartisan solutions that support children’s access to health insurance, Senators Graham (R-SC) and Cassidy (R-LA) are throwing their energy into bringing Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal back from the dead. In a last ditch effort to repeal the ACA and dismantle the Medicaid program, the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill would eliminate Marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion by 2020 and replace it with a block grant that ends in 2026. The Graham-Cassidy proposal would also cap Medicaid funding, putting the health of over 70 million children, people with disabilities and older adults at risk. Does all of this sound familiar? It should. These are the same old ideas all packaged up into one monster bill.
This monster zombie bill is particularly problematic for children and their families. The Graham-Cassidy proposal would:
- Cap the Medicaid program. Cutting Medicaid leads to a race to the bottom and forces states to prioritize cutting costs at the expense of children’s access to needed services, which can be especially harmful for children with special health care needs. Under this proposal, funding for Medicaid would drop dramatically and the only backfill would be for states to identify funds in their state budgets.
- Abandon the longstanding partnership between Medicaid and schools. Schools work closely with Medicaid to ensure children are ready and able to learn, reimbursing key services and supporting with school health workforce. A capped funding scheme would force schools to reduce staff and services for children due to a lack of funds.
- End Medicaid expansion. The bill effectively ends Medicaid expansion by 2026. This is an important tool for parent health and keep kids covered and accessing needed health care. A healthy child needs a healthy parent in order to thrive.
- Gut pre-existing conditions provisions that protect so many people, including children with lifelong chronic illnesses. Without these strong protections, families are at higher risk of medical debt leading to households making untenable choices between medical care, food and housing.
- Permit insurers to drop important benefits and impose limits on coverage. For families, this could translate into plans without robust benefits like maternity care or mental health coverage.
While these harmful measures are taking up space on the congressional calendar, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to run out by the end of the month. As Congress fails to notice the urgency of the situation, states are clamoring for swift action. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found that at least 10 states will exhaust their funds by December and nearly two-thirds will be out of funds by March 2018. Just last week, Minnesota’s Department of Human Services released its own analysis showing that it will run out of funds in September not later in the year as noted in earlier reports.
As CHIP funding legislation emerges from the Senate Finance Committee, Graham-Cassidy threatens the health of children and families. Although members of Congress seem eager to discuss CHIP, they fail to realize that CHIP requires a robust Medicaid program to stand on. Graham-Cassidy destroys Medicaid. If members sincerely care about children’s health, then they will shut down this zombie bill and do the work of supporting families.
Tell Congress to stop this recycled attempt to deny millions of people health care – there is more important bipartisan work to do.