Diane R. Miller: Re-authorize CHIP | SteamboatToday.com

Diane R. Miller: Re-authorize CHIP

When I graduated from nursing school in 1993, my first job was at a pediatric clinic for children from low-income families. That clinic served mostly uninsured children whose parents made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but could not afford to purchase health insurance on their own. For these uninsured children, we were the only affordable health care option for many miles.

Because these kids were uninsured, they often came to us having had little contact with the health care system. They were frequently under-immunized.

Sometimes, they had developmental delays that had gone undiagnosed and untreated simply because their parents could not afford regular well child check-ups.

Many children were referred to us by the emergency room after being treated for a severe asthma attack, or an untreated ear infection that had progressed to a ruptured ear drum or some other condition that might have been prevented with good primary care. Once, a young teen came to us with such severe tooth decay that she had tissue wadded up and packed in the holes in her teeth as a way to cope with the pain.

Part of my job was to help parents obtain affordable lab work, X-rays and specialty care for their kids. It sometimes took many days and multiple phone calls to land an affordable appointment for a child in a specialist's office.

If a child needed medication, laboratory work or hospitalization, that often meant bills that the parents could not afford to pay and more difficult choices. Imagine needing to overcome all of these hurdles to get health care for your child- and all for lack of health insurance.

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And then, in 1997 something wonderful happened. Congress authorized the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We began helping parents enroll their children and physicians, hospitals and clinics signed on.

Within a few short months, these kids were able to get the same kind of care their fully insured neighbors and classmates had been getting all along. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.

Fast forward 20 years. Funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which now covers nearly 9 million children across the US, is set to expire Sept. 30. The American Academy of Family Physicians and more than 130 other organizations are asking legislators to save the CHIP.

“CHIP was a smart, bipartisan solution to a real problem facing American children and families when it was adopted in 1997, and its importance and impact in securing a healthy future for children in low-income families has only increased,” the Academy wrote.

Contact your legislators: Sen Cory Gardner at 202-224-5941, Senator Michael Bennett at 202-224-5852 and Congressman Scott Tipton at 202-225-4761 and urge them to set aside politics and re-authorize the Children's Health Insurance Plan.

Let's not go backwards America. Our kids deserve better.

Diane R. Miller

Steamboat Springs

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