Finkenauer Introduces Legislation to Secure Health Care for 10 Million Kids

March 9, 2020
Press Release
CARING for Kids Act would permanently fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) introduced the Comprehensive Access to Robust Insurance Now Guaranteed (CARING) for Kids Act, bipartisan legislation to permanently fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides health insurance to 10 million children of lower-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid. Finkenauer was joined by Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) in introducing the CARING for Kids Act.

While CHIP has been successful for over 20 years, it is the only federal health insurance program that must have its funding extended every few years, leaving it vulnerable to lapses. The program’s funding was last extended in 2018, but this was after it temporarily expired for several months in 2017. During this lapse, many states were put at risk of running out of money for CHIP, unnecessarily undermining the work of the program.

In Iowa, CHIP is offered through the Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa program (Hawki), which covers roughly 75,000 Iowa children, with no family paying more than $40 a month for coverage.

“The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides care to thousands of Iowa kids and millions of kids across the country. There is bipartisan agreement this program is essential for children in our country. Now, it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road on funding it,” said Finkenauer. “Too many kids’ futures are on the line if CHIP funding expires even temporarily. This bill will cut out uncertainty and help protect the health and well-being of our next generation.”

 “This important program provides peace of mind to families that if their children get sick they will get the medical attention they need,” said Buchanan. “Nearly 380,000 children in Florida depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer to permanently reauthorize this vital program.’’ 

This bill is endorsed by: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, Children’s Defense Fund, Child and Family Policy Center, Families USA, First Focus Campaign for Children, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Iowa Primary Care Association, Little Lobbyists, Main Street Alliance, March of Dimes, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), NAMI Iowa, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
, and RESULTS.

Background on CHIP

Created in 1997 under a Republican Congress and a Democratic President, CHIP has since had funding extended under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. Since the program started, CHIP has helped reduce the rate of uninsured children and has provided health insurance coverage to millions of kids.

Support for the CARING for Kids Act

"I support Representative Finkenauer's bill to permanently fund the Children's Health Insurance Program. This bill would ensure that future lapses in funding do not occur in this vital program. Working families who do not qualify for Medicaid need to know that their child's healthcare coverage will not be interrupted. Parents should not have to face uncertainty when it comes to their child's health. Improved health outcomes and access to care for children and pregnant women benefit not only the impacted family but also the communities where they live and work," said Dr. Heidi Shreck, Chief Medical Officer and Pediatrician of Primary Health Care, which has locations in Marshalltown, Ames, and Des Moines.

“CHIP is a lifeline for working Iowa families, providing free or low-cost coverage for nearly 75,000 Iowa kids whose parents aren’t offered or can’t afford health insurance on their own. It meets the unique needs of children by covering important preventive services like well-child check-ups and immunizations – and services for kids with disabilities and chronic illnesses like asthma or diabetes. Making CHIP permanent means parents won’t have to worry again about whether their kids’ coverage will lapse if Congress fails to act on time. That’s the right move for Iowa families and we’re excited to support this bill,” said Anne Discher, Executive Director of the Child and Family Policy Center in Iowa.

“CHIP is an excellent program that help provides health care to thousands of Iowa kids, including those with serious emotional disorders. A permanent extension makes sense and NAMI Iowa supports it,” said Peggy Huppert, Executive Director of NAMI Iowa.

“On behalf of Iowa Citizen Action Network, we thank Representative Abby Finkenauer for her commitment to keeping our children’s health coverage safe,” said Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director of Iowa Citizen Action Network. “Rather than playing politics and jeopardizing CHIP’s funding every few years, we agree that the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding should be permanently extended to assure continuity of health care. This bill is an enormous step forward for our children. We urge all Members of Congress to support this legislation.”

“We are thrilled to support this bipartisan bill from Representatives Finkenauer and Buchanan that makes CHIP permanent. During these times more than ever, children and their families should be able to trust that CHIP will be there for them and their health coverage will be affordable, accessible, and meet their needs. It is also a matter of fairness. No other federal health insurance program – not Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, TRICARE, or FEHBP – is subjected to frequent expirations, funding cliffs, the need for offsets to simply maintain the status quo, and using the program as a bargaining chip to get it extended. We should not gamble with the health of our children. Instead, we should ensure that the 10 million children served by CHIP are protected, which is why we strongly support this bipartisan legislation,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children.

“Making CHIP permanent would be a major victory for our nation’s children. For more than two decades, CHIP has provided nearly 10 million children the health coverage they need to stay healthy, happy and ready to learn. By cementing CHIP into the fabric of our health care system, we can give the children and families who rely on CHIP the confidence that it will be there for them no matter what. Our children’s health and well-being should not depend on the political climate in Washington, and by making CHIP permanent, we can affirm that our children come first,” said Max Lesko, National Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund.

“The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a vital program for the nearly 10 million children across the country who rely on it for comprehensive, affordable medical coverage. CHIP ensures children can access age-appropriate care that meets their unique needs. By making the program permanent, this legislation would give families certainty that their children will be able to get the care they need to keep them healthy and ready to play, learn, and grow. The Academy applauds Representatives Finkenauer (D-IA) and Buchanan (R-FL) for introducing this important legislation that puts children first,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Sara “Sally” Goza, MD, FAAP.