"I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to rich people ahead of the lives of children."
Jimmy Kimmel Live
But his monologue last night focused not on calling out Senators who lied during their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, but on Congress's failure to reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. CHIP covers close to 9 million kids and teens, plus about 370,000 pregnant women, whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford to buy their own insurance coverage.
Kimmel appeared on stage with his son Billy—who was born in April with a heart defect and had his second open-heart surgery last week—to tell people, while fighting back tears, that Congress let CHIP funding lapse in September for the first time in the program's 20-year history. And instead of fixing that before the end of the year, lawmakers are prioritizing passing a bill that would give massive tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations.
The program was last funded in 2015 with bipartisan support. Kimmel said: “Now, CHIP has become a bargaining chip. It’s on the back burner while [Republicans] work out their new tax plans, which means parents of children with cancer and diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month. Merry Christmas, right?"
Without federal funding for CHIP, 11 states expect to run out of money by the end of the year, another five states by the end of January, and another 21 states by the end of March. Colorado was the first state to notify people that their coverage might end and Virginia will be sending similar letters to close to 70,000 enrollees starting today.
Kimmel has health insurance and said in September that he doesn't have to worry about affording Billy's care but that he's "politicizing his son's health problems" to draw attention to the fact that lots of people do have to worry about it.
“[CHIP has] always had bipartisan support, but this year, they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their millionaire and billionaire donors," Kimmel said yesterday. "Imagine getting that letter literally not knowing how you’ll afford to save your child’s life. This is not a hypothetical: About 2 million CHIP kids have serious chronic conditions. I don’t know about you, I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to rich people ahead of the lives of children. Why hasn’t CHIP been funded already?”
The short-term spending bill President Donald Trump signed on Friday includes a temporary fix for CHIP. The House passed a full CHIP authorization bill in November but that bill makes cuts to Obamacare's Prevention and Public Health Fund—which covers things like vaccinating kids—in order to pay for CHIP. It also shortens the grace period for people who don't pay their premiums for plans purchased on healthcare.gov. The Senate's version of the bill has not yet been discussed on the floor.
As Linda Nablo, deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, told ABC News: “You keep hearing from Congress, sure they’ll reauthorize it, of course they’ll do it. But on the other hand, they don’t seem to be taking seriously the consequences of the delay."
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