Finally, millions of families can breathe a sigh of relief because CHIP funding has been extended for an additional 5 years after a long, worrisome battle in Congress, and Paul Ryan hopes everyone will congratulate him on the victory, tweeting, “Millions of families across the country can now breathe a sigh of relief after the longest extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in history became law this week. “
Ryan’s brags are a little hard to swallow though, especially since Republicans have been trying to use CHIP as a political bargaining chip for months.
CHIP was implemented in 1997 with bipartisan support as it successfully cut the uninsured rate of U.S. children in half. However, when the budget needed reauthorization last fall, Ryan and his Republicans decided to play games and let the funding lapse risking millions of children in the process.
Unfortunately, CHIP got tangled in with other issues. Republicans linked a 5 year extension approval of CHIP to deep cuts in ACA programs and Medicare, a bill that Democrats refused to sign. The impasse continued through the holiday season, and some states began to announce they were running out of funding putting an estimated 9 million kids in imminent danger of losing healthcare. Then at the beginning of the year, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing CHIP could be funded for just 800 million, instead of the 8.2 billion previously estimated. Yet, the Republicans remained obstinate.
Republican leaders, like Paul Ryan, continued to play their games instead of merely approving the extension, and they decided to make the Democrats choose between CHIP and DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals program which protects some 800,000 immigrants. Mitch McConnell even made a nice graphic to post on Twitter about the game Republicans were playing.
Yet, there was absolutely no reason for Democrats to choose as Congress could easily extend CHIP and provide for DACA recipients. Finally, a short-term deal was reached extending CHIP funding for another 5 years, but it leaves DACA negotiations for next month when another government shutdown will likely occur if an agreement can’t be reached.
Ryan blamed Democrats for the whole fiasco saying, “Care for children in need should always, always go beyond party lines. Yet, five times in 2 ½ months, a majority of House Democrats voted to block both short-term and long-term extensions of CHIP funding. Even this week, with several states on the verge of running out of CHIP funds, Democrats maintained their opposition.”
Of course, Ryan forgets to mention that it was the Republicans that repeatedly tied the funding to the gutting of other programs crucial to millions of Americans. Summing up the situation, reporter Aaron Rupar said, “Ryan taking credit for the CHIP extension is akin to a hostage-taker congratulating himself for eventually letting the hostage go.”