Democratic lawmakers want continued funding for CoverKids

The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus is calling on U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and the entire Tennessee U.S. Congressional delegation to extend the federal block grant that funds CoverKids.

CoverKids is funded under the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and provides health insurance for more than 100,000 Tennessee children. In the last budget, fiscal year 2016, the state received more than 400 million dollars in CHIP funding. However, the funding cycle for CHIP ended in September and unless funding is extended, it’s estimated that the Tennessee allocation will run out of money by May of next year.

It’s estimated that some states will run out of their allotment as early as later this month. Several Caucus members objected to the possible lack of funding: “We can’t afford to play political games when it comes to taking care of Tennessee children,” said Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville. “Congress needs to find a way to save this critical program. And we are calling on the senators and representatives from Tennessee to lead the charge and protect our children.”

Memphis Rep. Raumesh Akbari, chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, said: “As elected leaders, we must protect and speak out for those that cannot speak out for themselves, especially our children. Beyond politics, it’s our people that matter most. I urge our Tennessee congressional delegation to extend block funding for the thousands of Tennessee children whose health coverage depends on this federal program.”

Rep. John Ray Clemmons (Nashville) said: “The CHIP program and CoverKids are vital resources for many Tennessee children who need them most. As a father, I feel strongly that the health and well-being of all children is paramount, and our government must do right by Tennessee families.”

“Our children are our must important business. Health and education must remain a high priority relative to adequate funding in the growth and development of all Tennessee youth,” said Rep. Barbara Cooper, who represents Memphis and part of Shelby County.

“There are too many families that fall in that hole of ‘we don’t make enough to purchase our own insurance but, we make too much to qualify for TennCare,” said Nashville Rep. Sherry Jones. “There is also the group of children the state took into custody and put into foster care who age out of the state ‘system’ and must have insurance coverage. These children, in many circumstances, can be covered by CHIP. It is extremely cruel to keep any child from insurance coverage!”

Clarksville Rep. Joe Pitts said: “Playing cat and mouse with the lives of children and pregnant women by delaying and potentially jeopardizing the continuation of the federal CHIP and state CoverKids programs is cruel, especially at this time of year. It does beg the question, what, if anything is more important than the health of children and women in the United States?”

“It’s a despicable, immoral and inhumane act to play a deadly game of politics with the health and the very lives of our precious and innocent Tennessee babies and other children in our nation,” Memphis Rep. G. A. Hardaway said. “It’s exceptionally insensitive and extremely heartless of Trump and the Republican congressional members to snatch health-care away from our babies at a time when infant mortality is rising especially in Memphis/Shelby County. It’s shameful to cause consternation among mothers and fathers by creating uncertainty as to whether we will provide vital health care needs for babies and children. Let me remind you, Donald Trump and all the members of our Tennessee congressional delegation, of our moral obligations and our constitutional responsibilities to protect and care for our most vulnerable little Americans.”

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley said: “Our children are our most precious resource, and to allow them to be used as pawns in political gamesmanship is reprehensible. We are elected to take care of those who are most vulnerable, and kids are the most vulnerable of our state and nation. I join with my colleagues in calling for our members of Congress to do what is right and fund CHIP and the CoverKids grant program.”