Trump Calls For Children's Health Insurance Cuts As Melania Unveils Her Kid-Friendly Platform
A day following first lady Melania Trump's official introduction of her big push for children, President Trump is making moves to cut funding for kids' health insurance. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump will push to cut Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding on Tuesday — and the total amount will be in the billions of dollars.
The money to be cut is part of a proposal Trump will send to the House that includes cutting federal spending by $15 billion, half of which will come from CHIP. The program provides health insurance to 8 million children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford health insurance for their children.
The money that is at risk was approved as part of a $1.3 trillion spending bill in March. Trump wants to take part of that bipartisan deal back. He signed the bill, but only after signaling his opposition to the bill; at one point the president threatened to shut down the government over the deal.
The juxtaposition with the first lady's "Be Best" program is jarring. On Monday, Melania's communications director told The New York Times that the first lady could not limit her focus to one children's issue because there are "too many critical issues facing children today for her to choose just one." Past first ladies have focused on children's literacy, fitness, and yes, health care.
Melania, while not limited to one issue, will work at first on battling the opioid crisis among children, preventing cyber bullying, and encouraging mental and physical health — that leg of the program is billed as "well-being" on the Be Best website.
The first lady spoke of the importance of her initiative on Monday:
It remains our generation’s moral imperative to take responsibility and help our children manage the many issues they are facing today, including encouraging positive social, emotional, and physical habits.
One habit that will be affected by her husband's plan is going to the doctor. CHIP covers routine check-ups, immunizations, and plain old doctors visits. Hospital visits, prescriptions, and lab work are covered too. That's not to mention dental and vision. Some states offer even more.
Trump's cuts could endanger the coverage, which was almost left unfunded before the March budget deal. Some states had started to close down programs when it was clear they couldn't pay for them.
Senate Democrats tried to paint the move as a giveaway to the rich and big business. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a statement that Trump and Republicans are "looking to tear apart the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program, hurting middle-class families and low-income children, to appease the most-conservative special interests and feel better about blowing up the deficit to give the wealthiest few and biggest corporations huge tax breaks."
This could all be a budgetary game to appear to be cutting spending when no change in funds would happen. Of the $7 billion that Trump is proposing to cut, The Wall Street Journal reports that $5 billion are from funds that are no longer authorized to be spent anyway.
The trickier bit is the other $2 billion. It is from a contingency fund that was enacted for CHIP that would cover a growth in enrollment. Democrats say it's important to have the money as a back-up. The funding that states receive for CHIP is not unlimited, and the reserve prevents the kinds of problems seen at the time of the funding fight.
What is clear is that the first lady will have her work cut out for herself if children lose their health insurance.