Legislators must reach agreement on Medicaid program — for the children’s sake

Among the tragedies of Congress this year is the almost inexplicable failure to finance something that both sides of the political aisle feel is a good thing: Medicaid insurance coverage for poor children.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, LaCHIP in Louisiana’s Medicaid program, does enjoy bipartisan support. But it has been held up by the commonest affliction of politics: an unwillingness to agree.

Under spending rules in Congress, programs should be “paid for,” with appropriate budgets. All too often, this is borrowed money added to the federal debt, or completely bogus sources of estimated “revenues.”

Republicans and Democrats often snarl shared goals for programs over debates about how something is “paid for” in the budget process. The problem is bipartisan: A Republican might target a Democratic-favored program for budget cuts to “pay for” another program, resulting in a fight that may be, but often is not, directly relevant to the purposes of the program

And, of course, Democrats might often propose tax or fee increases that Republicans don’t like to “pay for” a program, even if the source of the financing is not directly relevant to the program in question.

The rules were created with the good intentions of forcing members of Congress to budget the taxpayers’ money more responsibly. But quite often the fights get more and more bitter because they are fueled by partisan gotcha-politics rather than a sober budget debate. 

Republicans this year want to cut adult Medicaid services, at least in some way, to pay for LaCHIP and its other comparable programs across the states. Democrats disagree, leading to a deadlock that — amid much other chaos on Capitol Hill this year — allowed the entire program to expire.

Well, it’s really not a good idea: States have juggled funds to keep paying pediatricians and hospitals, but the reality is they cannot do that forever. Louisiana is going to be out of needed cash by January, for instance.

We join with Gov. John Bel Edwards and a bipartisan delegation of governors who urge members of Congress to resolve differences so that children, 122,000 of them in Louisiana, don’t end up out of luck in the new year when they get a winter cold, or God forbid something more serious.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, 11 other governors urge Congress to reauthorize CHIP

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