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Politics went wild this week, with 11th hour negotiations to prevent a government shutdown failing over lack of a budget agreement. The single reason for the impasse is political disagreement over funding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And even as this debacle unfolds, a battle over the debt ceiling in the coming weeks threatens to raise the furor over funding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to new heights.
Hanging in the balance: the hope and promise of health care for millions of American children.
Here’s the math:
Right now, 6.6 million children in the U.S. are without health insurance, meaning without access to medical care other than when a dire emergency brings them to an emergency room. It means that these children have no reliable way of getting critical vaccines, care for chronic illnesses like asthma, or screening for hearing or vision problems that could even interfere with learning in school.
The ACA – Obamacare – would offer coverage for at least 4 million of those kids, providing essential care for them and great relief for their families.
Passage of a budget measure defunding the ACA would also reduce allocated funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 70%. As pediatric providers to some of the nation’s most medically underserved children and communities, we at Children’s Health Fund recognize how dismantling the ACA would severely undermine the accomplishments of CHIP to date and the promise of health reform ahead.
We have already witnessed significant sequestration-driven cuts in key programs like Head Start and W.I.C. (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) in 2013. And it is likely that any Continuing Resolution agreement on the federal budget will continue with additional automatic sequestration cuts. At Children’s Health Fund, we strongly believe that if this level of reduced support for vital children’s programs were to become the norm going forward, it would not only reverse the progress made in improving children’s access to care, but also severely undermine and diminish America’s safety net for children.
And there’s more trouble on the horizon. When a resolution on this budget is finally reached, the framework for both next year’s budget and the fate of sequestration as an automatic mechanism for budget-cutting will likely be woven into the debt-ceiling negotiation. It is crucial that the Obama Administration resist all House leadership efforts to negotiate further cuts in exchange for cooperation in raising the debt limit. At Children’s Health Fund, we urge Congress to protect these and other programs within the debt-ceiling negotiation.
As this contentious budget debate continues to unfold, our bottom line is clear: protect children.