While a great deal of our time is spent focusing on state policy, MASA does closely follow meaningful developments in education policy at the national level. The Government Relations staff at MASA work closely with our national counterparts at the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to monitor federal legislation and developments within the U.S. Department of Education.
While Washington has been busy passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Congress has failed to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In Michigan alone, over one hundred thousand children could be left without access to health care and numerous other services as soon as April 2018, putting them at risk of missing more days of school and falling behind due to unmet health care needs.
CHIP was created in 1997 with the intention of extending health insurance to children of low- and moderate-income families that may not be eligible for Medicaid. In Michigan, CHIP is known as MiChild and it provides coverage to nearly 120,000 children. This program provides traditional medical and dental benefits, as well as inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services, physical and occupational therapies, vision and hearing exams and corrective lenses and hearing aids, and services for speech, hearing and language disorders.
The U.S. Congress failed to reauthorize funding for CHIP in September, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has said it will begin sending out letters in January to notify parents of recipient children that funds will run out unless action is taken. DHHS states that Michigan should have enough funding to administer the program until April or May. Without federal action Michigan’s legislative leaders will have to determine how to address funding shortfalls.
Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have been vocal about their support for the program and have urged their colleagues in the Senate to reauthorize funding. CHIP has always enjoyed bipartisan support; however, it appears that, at this time, there are issues with how to pay for the continued funding.
There is evidence that improved health among children with Medicaid and CHIP translates into gains in school performance and educational attainment over the longer term, with potentially positive implications for both individual economic well-being and productivity in the overall economy. If CHIP is not reauthorized, urban and rural counties across the state will feel the impact. Parents of these students will no longer be able to afford getting their children necessary treatment for ordinary sicknesses and likely send sick children to schools. Kids who need physical and occupational therapies or have hearing or vision issues won’t be able to continue their treatments or receive corrective devices, which will hinder their learning abilities at best.
MASA has been working the American Association of School Administrators to urge our Congressional leaders to take action–without federal funding for CHIP, MiChild will either have to be eliminated or tough budget decisions at the state level will have to be made. in Washington and discussing the issue with Michigan interest groups to understand the impact and possible remedies that may be necessary if Congress fails to act.
MASA is urging members to contact Congress and urge swift action on CHIP.