I understand that it’s hard for the press and the American people not to be distracted or consumed by Donald Trump’s continually unstable and reckless behavior.
When the leader of the freaking free world – the guy who literally controls America’s nuclear arsenal – spends his time ranting and raving about “fake news,” NFL players, or Emmy ratings, it’s hard not to find yourself paralyzed with shock.
Heck, just this evening, the president took to Twitter again to whine about how “dishonest and disgusting” the media is.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2017
“How did anybody think that electing this unstable man was a good idea?” is a question I assume millions of Americans ask themselves roughly 30 times per day.
But if there was ever a moment – just a moment, mind you – when we should put Trump’s erratic behavior on the back burner and focus on a really important policy issue, now would be it.
Because while Trump’s mental state continues to unravel before our eyes via social media and Republicans grapple with how to deal with it, there are millions of children on the verge of losing health insurance coverage.
That’s important, and our leaders need to address it immediately.
Thursday officially marks 12 days since funding expired for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a program 9 million children rely on to get health coverage. Not surprisingly, it has had bipartisan support since Hillary Clinton spearheaded the effort to establish it in 1997.
Clinton, the 2016 popular vote winner, even posted a series of tweets explaining why it’s vital that Congress renews funding for the program:
This hasn’t gotten enough attn: For the first time, Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 1/7
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 10, 2017
But suddenly, it seems that providing health care to the most vulnerable among us – children – is no longer important to at least one major political party, despite what the program has been able to accomplish.
As Vox noted last month, CHIP is “a big reason why America has nearly eliminated uninsurance among kids.”
But because of the inaction of Congress, states are scrambling to figure out what to do as funding for the critical program dwindles after expiring on Sept. 30. Sure, some states have enough money left to keep the program running for a few months or even into next year, but others won’t be so lucky.
Here’s a map showing the projected dates CHIP funding will run out in each state, via the Kaiser Family Foundation:
.@KaiserFamFound reports that 10 states will exhaust #CHIP money by this fall. AZ, NV, UT, and WV will freeze enrollment. 9 million children will lose coverage by next year. This is on your heads, GOP! #ProtectOurCare pic.twitter.com/sTqJSl9dqm
— Duncan for Congress (@JWDforCongress) October 2, 2017
Meanwhile, as Congress continues to drag its feet on this critical issue, they are more than happy to advance other disastrous policy goals, like cutting taxes for the wealthy or rolling back Obama-era environmental protections – and, of course, repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Just today, in fact, the president signed an executive order that, as Politico pointed out, would “encourage the rise of a raft of cheap, loosely regulated health insurance plans that don’t have to comply with certain Obamacare consumer protections and benefit rules.”
The move would pull younger and healthier Americans away from the ACA’s insurance markets and leave older and sicker folks with higher and higher health care costs. It would plunge the health care system into chaos.
“Within a year, this would kill the market,” said Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation, according to Politico.
So as Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress work together to dismantle the existing health care system or to cut taxes for their wealthy donors or to roll back environmental regulations, millions of American children are at risk of losing care they rely on to live – and these lawmakers don’t seem to be in any hurry to stop it.
No matter how visibly crazy and unfit Donald Trump is for this office – no matter what the White House distraction of the day happens to be – it’s an outrage that this egregious abdication of responsibility isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
It’s time for our leaders, the media and the American people to start changing that.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.