Time is running short for Congress to extend critical funding for children’s health insurance. The House recently passed a common-sense bill with a bipartisan vote that I proudly supported. But Democratic leaders are inexplicably holding up children’s health coverage as a bargaining chip for an end-of-year deal in Congress. If these games don’t end soon, thousands of hardworking Minnesota families could suffer.

In Minnesota, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage for about 125,000 low-income children and 1,700 pregnant women and new mothers. On Sept. 30, federal funding for the program expired, leaving states like Minnesota to rely on existing streams or rollover funds.

The clock is ticking, and Minnesota is expected to exhaust what money is left in weeks. After repeated delays in an attempt to seek a broader bipartisan agreement, the House of Representatives voted to put children first. On Nov. 3, the House passed H.R. 3922 to fully fund CHIP via the Championing Healthy Kids Act, which is fully paid for, with a bipartisan vote.

This legislation is good for Minnesota. It provides five years of funding for state CHIP programs. It also eliminates an estimated $156 million in cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital funding over the next two years. Averting these cuts helps provide more resources to reimburse the safety net providers who serve CHIP and Medicaid patients.

The bill also would fund community health centers and other important public health programs for two years. Last year, community health centers provided care to more than 25 million patients across the nation. Here in Minnesota, families throughout the state depend on our community health centers.

So what’s the holdup?

Democratic leaders in the Senate are playing politics with children’s health care. The House-passed bill redirects dollars from existing funds and allocates them for these vital public health programs, like community health centers, which have proved both cost-effective and successful at improving health outcomes.

The bill also requires Medicare’s wealthiest 1 percent of beneficiaries — those making more than $40,000 each month — to pay a little bit more on their monthly premiums in order to help fund health insurance for low-income children — about $130 more each month.

The reforms also stop bad actors on state health exchanges from gaming the system and harming taxpayers, while returning that money to patients and providers for their public health priorities.

Lastly, the bill ensures that high-dollar lottery winners are removed from the Medicaid program, freeing up the limited dollars for the most vulnerable. And it modernizes outdated payment rules to make sure Medicaid pays only when other third parties are not liable.

Altogether, this legislation prioritizes crucial funding and bipartisan priorities without adding to the national debt.

It’s no surprise that the House’s bill received endorsements from leading national medical and health care provider organizations. Groups like the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association are urging quick passage of funding for CHIP, and I agree.

Now, as the fate of children’s health care for families across the Land of 10,000 Lakes hangs in the balance, it’s of the utmost importance that Minnesota’s senators put patients ahead of politics and support this bill.

Without their quick action, state leaders may have to notify beneficiaries that they may lose health coverage. Children, patients and hardworking Minnesotans can’t wait any longer, and children’s health care is not a political football.

I am proud to support this common-sense legislation and provide necessary funding for such important programs to help Minnesota families. It is time for Democratic leadership in the Senate to act. The clock is ticking.

 

Tom Emmer represents Minnesota’s Sixth District in the U.S. House.