Today, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan informing him that the caucus will only vote for a government spending bill that reauthorizes and fully funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) for five years and two years respectively without taking away funding from other programs that help children and families, such as those for vaccinations, youth suicide prevention, and substance abuse.
“One day after giving away $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, it is unconscionable and un-American that Congress is likely to leave Washington for the holidays without a permanent solution for nine million children who depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program and 27 million families who visit community health centers for primary health care needs,” CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) said.
CBC Chairman Richmond continued, “The holidays are a time to reflect on how fortunate we are and help those in need. In that vein, the Congressional Black Caucus will only support a government spending bill that reauthorizes and fully funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Community Health Centers without taking away from other programs that help children and families.”
Text of the letter is below:
Dear Speaker Ryan:
On behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), I write today to strongly urge you to provide a more permanent solution for close to 9 million children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and more than 27 million people that visit Community Health Centers (CHC’s) for critically needed health care. It is completely irresponsible for Congressional Leaders to have created this crisis. Moreover, it is now unconscionable for Congress to head home for the holidays without taking action to right this wrong.
The holidays are a time to reflect on how fortunate we are and help those in need. In that vein, the CBC will not support a Continuing Resolution unless CHIP is reauthorized and fully funded for five years and Community Health Centers are reauthorized and fully funded for two years. Moreover, the offsets for these programs must not harm other vulnerable communities by reducing funding for other programs, such as the Prevention Fund. For this to be the state of play one day after giving away $1.5 trillion to huge corporations and the wealthy is absurd and offensive.
Close to 2 million children across this country are in danger of losing CHIP coverage in January, with another 1 million set to lose coverage in February. A short term approach to providing these children and their families with certainty is absolutely irresponsible. Without swift reauthorization and fully funded coverage, young lives hang in the balance. Congress’ failure to act will set off a chain of dire consequences for children, as well as their families, communities, and states. A family without insurance is a family more likely to fall victim to financial crisis related to medical costs, such as bankruptcy.
Similarly, Community Health Centers play an essential role in low-income communities as they protect and expand access to critical and affordable care. The Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) provides mandatory funding for federal health centers, which provide primary, dental, and other supportive care in medically underserved areas. Robust and reliable support for Community Health Centers results in more health centers, an increased number of patient visit, and more available services. These services save lives, especially in communities struggling to provide affordable care to poor, largely minority communities.
The CHCF is even more essential to the more than 27 million people it helps support in light of recent efforts to the dismantle our nation’s health insurance market. As you well know, the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate will add 13 million uninsured Americans, increase premiums by 10 percent, and make it harder for sick people to get insurance.
The Congressional Black Caucus has been the conscience of this Congress since its inception in 1971. We have provided moral leadership and courageous advocacy for our constituents and for all Americans that have felt disenfranchised or left behind. At the time of year when we are supposed to be most charitable, it is urgent that Congress act to reauthorize CHIP and Community Health Centers and provide robust funding for both. Children and families do not need to spend the holidays worrying about their health. It is time for Congress to do what it is responsible and moral. Accordingly, the CBC will not support any legislation to prevent a shutdown unless these critical programs are addressed.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Fabrice Coles is our Executive Director and can be reached at Fabrice.Coles@mail.house.gov or 202-226-9776.