Congress' Failure To Renew CHIP Will Add To Flint's Woes

Congress' unconscionable inaction on children's health insurance is set to have dire consequences.

Residents of Flint, Michigan, continue to suffer under a water crisis, knowing that every drop of water from their pipes might contaminate them and harm their health. Lead-laden water is the only water flowing into some Flint homes, not to mention the years when all of the city's water supply was tainted.

And Congress is doing nothing to resolve the city’s water crisis; in fact if anything, it is playing an active role in making things worse.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a funding program that offers health insurance to poor children and pregnant women from low-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Given Flint’s problematic situation, some of the funds were invested to assess the city’s pipes and sample their water quality under a special five-year contract approved by the federal government.

Contaminated water throughout the Rust Belt city reportedly elevated the blood lead levels of thousands of children. The agreement with Flint offered funds through CHIP for pipe replacement in the homes of children who qualified for CHIP.

The contaminated water service line material had put some of the city’s youngest residents at risk of a host of cognitive and behavioral problems. As a result, the government had raised the age limit of children in Flint who could qualify for CHIP and Medicaid to 21.

However, in September, Republicans did not reauthorize CHIP.

Now the lawmakers are opposing the five-year contract. According to Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, CHIP funds for the city are available through April 2018, but what happens after that remains unclear.

Since Congress failed to secure funding for CHIP, about 9 million children across the country may lose coverage, The Washington Post reports. The funding which is now under jeopardy makes things even more depressing for Flint residents.

“MDHHS is closely watching the federal activity regarding CHIP funding. Should the funding not be reauthorized prior to when the state exhausts our remaining allotment, we’ll either need to secure additional from the state legislature or amend/cease the contract accordingly,” Angela Minicuci, MDHHS spokesperson, told CityLab in an email.

The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, created by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to help address the Flint crisis, is expected to send a letter to the Congress warning that lead pipe replacement funding will be compromised if CHIP is not extended.

If the funding for CHIP ceases, children depending on the program might face dangerous consequences.


Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque 

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