Sen. Orrin Hatch’s impotence is once again on full display. Congress has yet to fund one of his hallmark accomplishments – the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. Funding for the program ran out as of Sept. 30. In September, Utah health officials said they would need to end the CHIP program if Congress failed to fund it, as it would be insolvent by the end of the year.
CHIP subsidizes wellness exams, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions and other health care costs for children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. There are 20,000 children in Utah who benefit from the program, and 9 million across the country.
The program has a state component that includes state matching funds. Gov. Gary Herbert included $5 million of funding in his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2019, despite the federal government’s failure to fund the program thus far. He supports the program, as do most state and federal legislators.
Utah advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah, tired of waiting to see if Congress would do the right thing, decided to take matters into its own hands and send Hatch a message to “sweeten the deal.” It delivered a plastic tub full of 20,000 chocolate chips – each one to represent one Utah child who relies on CHIP funding.
Hatch seems to understand that CHIP funding is a “moral responsibility.” He blames the failure to pass the funding extension on the dysfunction in Congress – a Congress he supposedly leads as one of the most senior members in the Senate.
Earlier this month, on the Senate floor, Hatch said, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is we don’t have any money anymore.” He then went on to bemoan other federal welfare programs, like Social Security and Medicare, many of which have been specifically funded not by lazy loafs, but by hard workers required to contribute.
“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything,” Hatch complained.
The only such program the government spends trillions of dollars on — $1 trillion, actually – is the four health insurance programs Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Hatch claims the funding extension will pass. He said, “While I would’ve liked to pass the CHIP bill months ago, I believe our bill will pass by the end of the year and be signed into law with enough time to ensure funding goes uninterrupted and nobody loses coverage.”
Perhaps we can just cross our fingers.