News-Miner opinion: The Children’s Health Insurance Program is set to run out of funding in March, but, thankfully, bipartisan support exists to renew it. Each state administers its own version of CHIP, the program through which a federal match provides health insurance for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Medicare but who cannot afford health insurance.
In Alaska, the program is called Denali KidCare and it serves more than 17,700 people. Denali KidCare covers services such as health and dental check-ups, hospital care and mental health treatment.
Let’s hope this bipartisan effort continues beyond CHIP to addressing other areas of health care.
Last week, Alaska’s all-Republican delegation showed strong support for finding a permanent solution to CHIP, and they were right to do so.
“As a previous supporter of the CHIP program, Sen. (Dan) Sullivan fully supports its reauthorization,” a spokesman for Sen. Sullivan said last week. “He is committed to working with his colleagues to provide long-term reauthorizing and funding for the program that is vital for so many vulnerable children in the Denali KidCare program and across the country.”
“Sen. Murkowski is a co-sponsor of the KIDS Act, which reauthorizes the program for five years. She knows the importance of CHIP and will work with her colleagues on a plan for ensuring funding for CHIP continues,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s communications director said.
“This is a critical program that serves thousands of Alaskans, and I remain committed to finding a comprehensive and long-term solution for it,” Rep. Don Young said.
Let’s hope Congress finds a solution soon.
CHIP isn’t the only health care problem that needs a fix this year as costs continue to rise. Late last year, Sen. Murkowski said health care costs should be a priority.
Congress tried addressing this in 2017, but Republican health care bills that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act failed after strong opposition from the health care industry. Sen. Murkowski cast defeating votes after many of her constituents asked her not to support these bills.
A provision inside the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nixed the mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance. For many Republicans, this mandate has been the chief concern with the ACA since it was enacted. Although it’s not a full repeal of the ACA, this may lead to more bipartisan cooperation as health care is addressed.
As our delegation moves forward to tackle health care, Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan and Rep. Young should continue to consult health industry experts here in Fairbanks and in the rest of the state to learn how local health care institutions and Alaskans might be affected by each proposed solution.