GOP seeks to ram through cuts to popular CHIP program after massive tax cuts to corps, wealthy blew a hole in the deficit

MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today called on Congressional Republicans to stand up to President Trump and block his administration’s plan to strip billions of dollars from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in order to cut the exploding deficit under the Trump Tax Plan that gave massive tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Both the Republican-controlled House and Senate have a deadline to vote on the President’s rescission package, which would slash $15 billion in federal spending, targeting $7 billion from CHIP. More than 230,000 New Jersey children from low-income and working families rely on the program.

“After blowing a hole in the deficit with massive tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthiest, it is despicable for President Trump and his Republican allies to now demand that our most vulnerable children and working families pay the price,” said Sen. Menendez. “With health care premiums and prescription drug costs skyrocketing, we should be working to improve access to affordable, quality health care. Yet, here we are again, fighting to protect the health care coverage millions of our children rely on. This latest attack makes it more clear President Trump and Republicans in Congress will do anything–including risking the health of children–to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.”

Sen. Menendez visited Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside to underscore the critical importance of the children’s health care program for working families in New Jersey.

“Families across the country breathed a sigh of relief upon passage, as an additional ten years of funding for CHIP would protect coverage for children, give families a peace of mind and enable states like New Jersey to make investments that strengthen and improve their CHIP programs,” Dr. Naveen Mehrota, Pediatrician, Academy of Pediatrics said. “After breathing a very short sigh of relief, long term stability and protection these families fought to ensure is once again in jeopardy. As a pediatrician, who takes care of children who have CHIP coverage, I am here today to urge Congress to protect children and families and to reject any proposed cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

“Like, Sen. Menendez, I can’t believe we’re still here, talking about the value and importance of investing in this program. It’s been a long fight to get it reauthorized – I think we celebrated the success for about two months before the program became threatened again,” Cecilia Zalkind, President, Advocates for Children NJ said. “I remember a time not so long ago, maybe ten years ago, 500,000 children in New Jersey lacked health insurance. We have reversed that. Our last Kids Count report found that less than 75,000 children lack health insurance. That’s an enormous success. This is a program that we all need – for our children, for our state and for our families.”

CHIP is a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage for low- and moderate-income children with family incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private coverage. CHIP provides comprehensive coverage for nearly 9 million children across the country. Specifically, the President’s rescission package targets $5.1 billion in CHIP funds and $1.9 billion from CHIP’s contingency fund. The contingency fund helps states who experience funding shortfalls. President Trump unveiled his rescission plan on May 7, and deadline for passage of the bill is June 22.

This isn’t the first time Republicans endangered CHIP funding. Last September, Republicans allowed the program’s funding to lapse. In response, Sen. Menendez co-introduced the bipartisan KIDS Act to fund CHIP through 2022 and preserve the express lane option for enrollment, the childhood obesity demonstration project, and the pediatric quality measures. The senator successfully fought to extend CHIP funding for a full ten years in the recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said would ultimately save taxpayers $6 billion over the decade

Sen. Menendez also announced he will be meeting with families, health care experts and advocates across New Jersey to talk about how to make health care more affordable.

“This President and the Republican Congress are taking our health care system backwards. But not only do we need to defend the gains we’ve made–we must continue looking forward to improve our health care system so that it is accessible to every American–no matter where they live, how much money they make, or what kind of health challenges they face,” the Senator said. “That’s why I’m going to spend time talking to everyday New Jerseyans about the challenges they face and ways we can make the system better.”

The Senator has a long record of fighting to expand access to health care, reduce costs and clamp down on the rising costs of prescription drugs, including:

* Co-Sponsoring the Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive (SPIKE) Act that would require pharmaceutical companies who engage in price-gouging to explain to the public their reasons for hiking the prices of their medications when those increases exceed a certain benchmark

* Co-Sponsoring the bipartisan Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act, introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), cracks down on drug companies that intentionally delay the required sharing of product samples with generic manufacturers to develop generic versions of the brand-name drug

* Fighting back against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act

* Securing funding to combat the growing opioid crisis, expand treatment options, while pushing to develop a national action plan

* Securing funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers, including a combined $7.8 billion in CHC funding for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, as well as another $1.6 billion in the recent omnibus package

* Leading the fight for Autism funding

* Securing an additional $3 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, with increases for every NIH institute and center to support investments that advance science and speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics and preventive measures, improving the health of all Americans

Since taking office, President Trump and his administration has taken a long list of actions to undermine our health care system, including proposed funding cuts to critical programs like CHIP, getting rid of the individual mandate that will knock an estimated 13 million off insurance rolls and drive up costs for the sick and elderly, slashing the ACA enrollment period in half, allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients, and refusing to make cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers that help lower deductibles and other out-of-pocket health care costs. These actions have resulted in 3.2 million Americans losing insurance in 2017, the largest increase since before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and skyrocketing premiums for families.

This article provided by NewsEdge.