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Building a world of justice: Children's health care as a foundation

Building a world of justice: Children's health care as a foundation

Child receiving care

This past Shabbat, we read the Torah portion Ki Tavo. We are nearing the end of the book of Deuteronomy, the final book of the Torah. Moses’s leadership is coming to a close, and he is leaving the people of Israel with reflections on his journey and guidance for the next chapter. His words are filled with blessings and curses, rewards and punishments for following God’s commandments. Moses tells the Israelites that they “will be blessed in the land that your God is giving you. God will establish you as God’s holy people, as was sworn to you, if you keep the commandments” (Deuteronomy 28:8-9).  The alternative is a much darker future, in which “God will let loose against you calamity, panic, and frustration in all the enterprises undertake” (Deuteronomy 28: 20).

The notion of a God whose judgment will lead to punishments or rewards may seem foreign to many of us. However, Moses’s directions are not simply about keeping God satisfied. They are about impressing upon the Israelites the importance of following in God’s path. Transitioning from being a wandering people to a stable, self-governing one presents unpredictable challenges. But at the heart of Moses’s directive is the necessity of establishing a community worthy of God’s vision for future generations of the Jewish people.

Even today, we are continually working to create and sustain a society that fulfills God’s vision. There are fewer issues that reveal our progress in doing so than whether we choose to provide health care for our children, the most vulnerable among us. This month, Congress faces a decision about extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP). CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to 8.9 million children from families ineligible for Medicaid and generally without access to private insurance. Since 1997, CHIP has operated as a partnership between the federal government and states with a close relationship to state Medicaid programs. Studies of the program suggest that CHIP has led to better health for children, as well as superior educational outcomes.  

It is exciting to have an opportunity for bipartisan health care legislation. CHIP has always been supported by members of both parties. However, with Congress’s packed agenda for September, it is critical that Congress doesn’t ignore CHIP just because it is less controversial. A long-term extension of the program’s funding, such as the five-year extension recommended by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), will offer states the certainty they need as they plan their budgets for future years.

Many states have laws that require them to send notices to families if funding for CHIP is running out. These notices leave families scared and children at risk. No family should face a crisis because Congress fails to act. Congress should prioritize funding for CHIP and offer the certainty families deserve.

The essence of the CHIP program is about a commitment to care for young people, regardless of the income of their families. Last year marked the lowest uninsured rate for American children, standing at just 5%. CHIP has played a vital role in making this a reality. This helps create the world that God envisioned: one that forefronts children for the sake of future generations.

Take action to let your members of Congress know why you care about CHIP and urge them to act quickly and in a bipartisan fashion to extend its funding before the end of September. The Union for Reform Judaism was proud to sign onto an interfaith letter earlier this month urging Congress to do so. 

Nathan Bennett is a Legislative Associate at the Religious Action Center. Previously, he served as a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. Originally from Wilmette, IL, he is a member of Ner Tamid Ezra Habonim Egalitarian Minyan and graduated from Northwestern University.

Nathan Bennett

Published: 9/11/2017