Editor:

While our representatives in Congress were busy supporting the latest failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they neglected a crucial deadline to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which connects over 9 million children with insurance nationally. It provides coverage for children in families with incomes that are not low enough to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private coverage.

As of July 2017, Wyoming had enrolled 60,075 individuals in Medicaid and CHIP (source: Medicaid.gov). For comparison purposes, that number falls between the population size of Casper (59,324) and Cheyenne (64,019) (source: www.census.gov).

Despite the fact that the bill had enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1997, and an agreement on a reauthorization bill had been reached in mid-September by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the GOP-led Congress allowed its singular focus on Obamacare repeal to eclipse any efforts to secure funding before the Sept. 30 deadline.

A recent Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that more than seven out of 10 Americans (across political parties) said it is “extremely” or “very” important to reauthorize the CHIP program before its funding expires (source: www.kff.org). Yet, our representatives have shamefully chosen to prioritize an unpopular repeal bill over a popular and indispensable program that provides health care to low-income children.

Without reauthorization, federal CHIP funding for Wyoming is expected to be exhausted between July and September of 2018 (source: www.macpac.org). We all stand to lose if CHIP remains unfunded, as the American Hospital association has reported that children on CHIP receive more comprehensive benefits at lower costs than with private health insurance, and that their improved health translates into education gains, with positive implications for both individual economic well-being and economic productivity (source: www.aha.org).

It is time to call Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Liz Cheney and let them know that it is unacceptable to prioritize an unpopular repeal bill over a program that connects one of our most vulnerable populations, low-income children, with healthcare. We must demand that the CHIP program be reauthorized without delay.

ERIC DISTAD, Casper

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