Congress must act ASAP for thousands of Washington kids to keep coverage | GUEST OP

  • Wednesday, December 6, 2017 4:24pm
  • Opinion
Reps. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, left, and Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac. FILE PHOTOS

Reps. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, left, and Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac. FILE PHOTOS

By Reps. Tina Orwall and Mia Gregerson

Washington lawmakers see that children’s health coverage must be a top priority, that’s why in 2007 the Legislature passed the Apple Health for All Kids program. Today, 840,000 children throughout the state have comprehensive coverage, including medical, dental, vision and mental health.

While Apple Health provides insurance, it also helps keep kids healthy by encouraging the coordination of care through a primary provider, which results in higher quality care. The program also invests in outreach to find and enroll eligible families, and supports nutrition and exercise in schools.

Children with family incomes up to 312 percent of the federal poverty level, who don’t have access to another source of health insurance, are eligible to buy into Apple Health coverage at rates they can afford. Families earning below 210 percent of the federal poverty level do not pay any premiums for coverage.

But this successful program, which has expanded coverage for both low-income and moderate-income families, is at risk unless Congress acts quickly.

One of the funding sources for Apple Health is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently ensures access to essential health care services for more than 50,000 kids. This has helped drop the rate of uninsured children in our state to a historic low of 2.5 percent. Unfortunately, Congress did not re-authorize CHIP funding by the program’s Sept. 30 deadline. The state has been relying on reserve funding from the federal agency in charge of Medicaid to keep the program afloat.

If Congress doesn’t reauthorize funding for CHIP by the end of the year, the state will not be able to continue providing health coverage for all kids. In King County alone about 12,000 children will lose coverage.

Apple Health for Kids and CHIP have enjoyed bipartisan support over the years because you don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to realize that keeping kids safe and healthy is the right thing to do and makes economic sense.

It’s the right thing because healthy children learn better, grow better and have a better chance of succeeding in life. And it makes economic sense because the costs of neglecting regular health care or caring for uninsured children in emergency rooms far exceed the costs of providing insurance.

During the last decade, our state Legislature has worked hard to protect the advances gained through Apple Health for Kids. Even when there were extreme pressures to make cuts to balance the budget, this priority has remained intact.

The current climate in D.C. could make this year’s federal budget process contentious. Congress shouldn’t play politics with our kids; reauthorizing CHIP should be a clear priority. Washington state’s children are counting on them.

Reps. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, represent the 33rd Legislative District, which includes SeaTac, Des Moines, Normandy Park, and part of Kent, Burien and Renton.

More in Opinion

Trump helped erase voter complacency

Young voters turned out in massive numbers

Reporter cartoon, Frank Shiers
From guns to climate, declaring election’s winners and losers

A surge in voter interest, a swelling in the ranks of Democratic… Continue reading

Costs matter in hiring | Brunell

While both sides argue the merits of Seattle’s escalating minimum wage, there… Continue reading

Cam-pains: Enough is enough

Don’t forget to vote by Tuesday, Nov. 6

State taxed with the challenge of keeping up with a robust economy

Gov. Inslee: ‘Our revenue system is designed for a Model T economy in an Internet Age’

School is back in session, and KCLS is ready to help

It is fall and a busy time for teachers, students and parents.… Continue reading

Carbon fee hurts business and families | Brunell

Reduce pollution in our atmosphere without punishing workers and families

Boeing’s venture into hypersonic jetliners

Last spring, Boeing revealed its proposed hypersonic passenger airliner, which would fly… Continue reading

These 17 people will decide raises for elected officials

A special commission will soon decide salaries for state officeholders, including the governor

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
He’s not on the ballot, but Inslee is campaigning like it

Republicans may find votes in making the election a referendum of the Democratic governor’s agenda