Back to School...
August and September mean back to school in my house and in many others throughout the country. In preparation, we went through the annual rituals of gathering supplies, assessing clothing needs and the adjustment of bedtime for everyone in the house as we tried to get our bodies, as well as our minds, back into “school mode.” For families raising children with complex health care needs and disabilities there are a few extra back-to-school tasks, like updating health and emergency plans, dropping off medical supplies, facilitating training of key staff. For our family, there were also the traditional homemade chocolate chip cookies to greet the scholars upon their return from the first day.
There is another group heading back to work after a summer break, also readjusting and planning for what is next: Congress heads back to Washington next week, and while members may not have fresh supplies or homemade cookies they too face a fresh list of assignments, challenges and tasks. The start of school, with the palpable excitement and the promise of new beginnings that seem to trail through the air in the school bus’s wake, brings an opportunity for us all, whether we have children in school or not, to redouble our communication with our congressional delegation in partnership for the best possible future for our communities. Join me in adding to your back-to-school activities a clear and continuous call to action on health care and related issues that face America’s children. And keep in mind the extra considerations for children who have complex health care needs.
Congressional “Back-to-School” Assignments with pressing deadlines:
Reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Due September 30th.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) covers 8.9 million children with family incomes above Medicaid eligibility limits who lack access to affordable private coverage. Together with Medicaid, it provides a strong base of coverage for our nation’s low-income children. A 5 year, clean extension would give peace of mind to many families and states alike.
Extension of funding for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs): Due September 30th.
A national network that is the family doctor to more than 25 million Americans – including one in ten children 17 years or younger nationwide – faces a scheduled expiration of expanded funding on September 30th. Inaction would result in a cut to the budget of every health center. Families and communities need Congress to extend funding and fix this funding cliff.
Family to Family Health Information Centers: Due September 30th.
Funded Centers in each state help families of children/youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) learn how to navigate the complex health care system, advocate for their children, and make informed choices about health care in order to promote good treatment decisions, cost-effectiveness and improved health outcomes. Funding for this program should be continued, at an increased level, so it can be expanded to serve families in the US territories and to specifically serve American Indian/Native Alaskan families.
Debt Ceiling: Due October 2nd (-ish – the exact time and date remains in flux).
Without the ability to borrow America quickly has a cash flow problem which on a day-to-day basis would make handling payments for important programs including Social Security and Medicaid all but impossible. These and other programs touch the lives of millions of American children.
Budget: Due September 30th (with option for extension).
Twelve spending bills that hold the budgets for various federal agencies will need to pass committees and both houses for a full budget to be in place. A more likely next step will be stop-gap spending bills called continuing resolutions. This process and its outcome will impact funding on all systems and services that touch children.
It is a daunting list of assignments, everyone in the community, not just parents, can help be a voice to congress about these important assignments. We can all support children by voicing to our state and federal representatives the impact of these important issues on our communities. Our kids’ futures depend on it.