Using Kids As Chips

January 18th, 2018

Threatening children to get what you want isn’t a legislative process; it’s extortion.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, January 19, 2018, and in The Memphis News, January 20-26, 2018



As I write this, nine million low-income kids in America are at risk of losing their insurance, primarily because they aren’t the kids of Congress.

As I write this, 73,000 of those kids are in Tennessee and funding for their insurance was allowed to lapse last September and will only last as long as the reserve funds currently being exhausted, primarily because they aren’t the kids of the Tennessee General Assembly.

As I write this, I ask who have we become?

Our Congress is so broken that it can’t even cross an aisle to protect our children most at risk. Our values are so twisted that our legislation now blatantly favors those with the most at life-threatening cost to those with the least, and our laws are bought by those who can pay for the votes. That used to be a cynical point of view. Now it’s just an observation.

There is no reasonable explanation for not permanently funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program that insures children in low-income families making too much for Medicaid – a coverage gap nine million kids wide nationally and 73,000 kids wide in Tennessee. Congress voted in December to temporarily fund the CHIP program through March, but they couldn’t even get that right since many states will run out of money this month.

Even if some funding Band-Aid has been applied by the time you read this, there is no excuse for taking this to the brink, forcing states to bleed their reserves, putting parents through the agony of uncertainty about their children’s coverage.

Any parent of any of those kids will take no comfort from some detached argument about budgets and priorities. Any vision of the future should their children become sick or already are will not be made any less terrifying by the views of any political party or politician. Should any of those parents lose any child over the lack of insurance because funding was delayed because of some perceived political gain, there is no adequate compensation for that loss and no forgiveness for those who caused it.

When our son was a little boy, he was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. He became uninsurable, in the same risk pool as hemophiliacs. He had to go into the CHIP program in Tennessee, now called CoverKids. We paid a fortune to insure him, but we never considered not insuring him. It was hard, but we made it work. He was our son.

What we paid wouldn’t be hard for the parents in CHIP today; it would be impossible.

Blessedly, our son grew out of the problem without incident, but we were insured against incident. Today’s CHIP parents wouldn’t be. I ask any parent, especially those in Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly, to imagine what that would be like.

In reply to my earlier question, we are all the parents of those children and if we don’t realize that, we have become lost.

I’m a Memphian, and some things aren’t bargaining chips.


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