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

  • Wednesday, December 6, 2017 4:26pm
  • 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

What a surprise: Democrats eyeing the need for higher taxes

Even with a robust economy, the majority party may seek more revenue to carry out its wish list.

Growing resistance to corporate incentives | Brunell

The circumstances leading to Amazon’s decision to scrap its New York City… Continue reading

Lawmakers on the road to finding car tab relief

One of the last spitball fights among lawmakers in the 2018 session… Continue reading

Student debt draining retired income | Brunell

Lots has been written about students exiting college saddled with hefty student… Continue reading

Washington farmers need tariff relief | Brunell

The good news is Washington’s cherry crop is projected to be as… Continue reading

What happens after the bin? Behind the scenes at the recycling center

For many residents in Auburn, recycling isn’t a chore, it’s a life… Continue reading

Private sector is stepping up for tourism | Brunell

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. That’s particularly true… Continue reading

3 years in the making: new law on police use of deadly force

Legislators are about to pass a bill that will permit officers to kill only in ‘good faith’

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Inslee sounding more presidential than ever

“Washington’s Unwritten Chapter” was the title of the State of the State… Continue reading

Male-only no more: The next House Speaker will be a woman

Frank Chopp’s reign as speaker of the state House of Representatives will… Continue reading

East Coast seaports ramping up capabilities | Brunell

While many eyes are fixed on trade talks between our country and… Continue reading

New year will bring new libraries, opportunities

On Jan. 16, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary as the King… Continue reading