Together, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program provide critical health coverage to Iowa children. Working hand-in-hand, they have helped our state achieve an historic share of covered kids: more than 97 percent. Medicaid and CHIP — called hawk-i in Iowa — cover 32 percent of children in Cerro Gordo County.

These two programs are a lifeline for working families. They cover developmental, vision and hearing screenings and treatment for illness or injury. They cover newborns, foster youth and children with disabilities. Kids who have health coverage do better in school, are more likely to graduate, go onto college and earn higher wages.

After months of Congressional debate on Medicaid, now the future of CHIP — and health care for 80,000 Iowa kids it covers — is at risk. Federal funding for CHIP, which covers children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose families can’t afford or don’t have access to private insurance, expired a month ago.

The Sept. 30 deadline was no surprise. It was known when Congress passed a two-year CHIP extension in 2015. The program’s nonpartisan advisory group recommended a clean-five-year renewal in December 2016.

Officials in other states are already preparing to send notices to families and contractors and announce enrollment freezes. If a bill isn’t passed soon, the Iowa officials managing hawk-i will be forced to make similar bad choices.

CHIP has always received bipartisan support. It did at its inception, it did when it was reauthorized and it does now. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is a co-sponsor of the Senate’s CHIP bill, called the KIDS Act, which should be quickly approved by Congress. Iowa children and families can’t afford to wait any longer.

There is no need for anyone to play politics with our children’s health.

Kylie Gottschalk, Child and Family Policy Center, Des Moines

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