Congress should renew CHIP soon

Few members of Congress seem to disagree that federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program should be continued, but they haven’t done so yet. They need to.

CHIP funding stopped on Sept. 30, and states, which use this funding plus their own to cover kids’ health care, will soon have to make tough decisions about whether to continue it. Each state’s program has its own name; in New York it’s Child Health Plus, which predates the federal CHIP.

A bipartisan bill supporting CHIP for five years is advancing through the U.S. Senate. It should be approved there as well as in the House of Representatives, where it had stalled.

CHIP serves an estimated 8.9 million youngsters whose parents have moderate incomes (up to double the poverty level nationally or quadruple in New York — $82,000 a year for a family of three), but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid coverage. It also serves more than 350,000 pregnant women.

CHIP was created with strong bipartisan support in 1997, when one in seven children in the U.S. were uninsured, according to the Census Bureau. That rate has dropped from 14.8 percent in 1996 to 4.5 percent in 2016, and there’s little doubt CHIP is the main reason.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that CHIP serves 350,000 children in this state, including 7,366 in the North Country.

“To continue Child Health Plus without federal funding would cost New York State taxpayers over $1 billion,” his press release said.

Families rely on CHIP, and Congress needs to renew it.