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“We’re All Doing This for Our Children”: Kihuen and Health Care Advocates Demand Nevada Kids Remain Insured

On Wednesday, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) gathered with Former Nevada First Lady Sandy Miller and local health care advocates outside UMC Hospital in Las Vegas. Kihuen called on his fellow Members of Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance for some 25,000 Nevada kids as Nevada Check-up.

While there, he also addressed the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare bill that Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller (R) has co-sponsored. As Kihuen is demanding that Nevada children stay insured, Heller is pushing a bill that could result in loss of coverage and health care funds.

What’s the deal with CHIP?

In 2016, 8.9 million American children were covered under CHIP. Together, CHIP and Medicaid provide health insurance to about one-third of all American children. In this state, Nevada Check-up (Nevada’s CHIP program) covers about 25,000 children.

Yet if Congress doesn’t reauthorize CHIP by September 30, these 25,000 Nevada children will likely lose their coverage. A bipartisan deal to extend CHIP coverage was seemingly struck last week, but that deal is now in jeopardy. With little time to spare, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) recently signaled his intention to bring up the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare bill for a series of votes next week.

“It would be detrimental to our state, to our children, and to our families, if the CHIP program is not reauthorized.”
– Rep. Ruben Kihuen

At UMC, Kihuen explained why CHIP is incredibly important to Nevada. “Right now, in my Congressional District, 34% of our children are under the CHIP program,” Kihuen said. “It would be detrimental to our state, to our children, and to our families, if the CHIP program is not reauthorized.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, Dr. Betsy Huang from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Jared Busker from Children's Advoacy Alliance Nevada talk health care outside UMC Hospital in Las Vegas. The Children's Health Insurance Program (known here in NV as Nevada Check-up) will expire on September 30 without reauthorization. At the same time, Senate Republicans are trying to pass another Trumpcare bill before the September 30 reconciliation deadline.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Senator Dean Heller has supported CHIP reauthorization in the past, and was assumed to be a safe vote to reauthorize the program again this month. However, Heller is now lending his support to the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare bill that the Center for American Progress estimates will result in 243,000 Nevadans losing their health insurance. Not only does the bill result in a massive $639 million cut in federal health care funds for Nevada, including deep cuts to the Medicaid program that’s used alongside CHIP to guarantee coverage to more Americans, but it’s also eating away valuable time on the Congressional clock as CHIP reauthorization remains on the docket.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Kihuen didn’t directly criticize Heller, but he did ask his Republican colleagues to shift their focus from denying Americans health care to guaranteeing health care coverage. “This is of the utmost importance. I believe this should be a priority when we get back next Monday.”

“Parents should not have to decide whether they should pay the rent or their children’s medication.”
– Rep. Ruben Kihuen

When asked about his Republican colleagues’ ongoing attempts to repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), Kihuen called on them to return to bipartisan negotiations to improve the health care law. He again reminded them of the human costs of repealing Obamacare. “Parents should not have to decide whether they should pay the rent or their children’s medication.”

Kihuen then praised Governor Brian Sandoval (R) for repeatedly denouncing these repeal efforts, including the Graham-Cassidy bill this week. “He once again showed his true leadership by speaking out against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He is putting his state first, before his party.”

Heller pledged in June to only support health care legislation Sandoval finds acceptable, but now the two Nevada Republicans are at odds. Sandoval recently signed onto a letter from a bipartisan coalition of Governors opposing Graham-Cassidy. Despite Sandoval’s objections, Heller continues to support the bill… And place at risk the CHIP program that will lapse if it isn’t reauthorized in the next week.

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