Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Children from lower-income families could soon lose access to affordable health care because the Republican leaders in Congress have failed to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This is a travesty.
After passing a lavish tax cut for corporations and wealthy families, Congress hastily left town last month without reauthorizing the federal-state health insurance program, which benefits nearly nine million children. Authorization expired in September, and so far states have kept CHIP going with unspent funds carried over from previous appropriations. Before Christmas, Congress allocated $2.85 billion to the program, saying that the money would take care of the children’s needs until the end of March. But that appears to have been a gross miscalculation, because the Trump administration said on Friday that some states would start running out of money after Friday, Jan. 19.
CHIP was created in 1997 and has helped halve the percentage of children who are uninsured. It has been reauthorized by bipartisan majorities of Congress in the past. But Republican leaders in Congress all but abandoned the program last fall and devoted their time to trying to pass an unpopular tax bill that will increase the federal debt by $1.8 trillion over the next decade, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis released last week. By contrast, CHIP costs the federal government roughly $14.5 billion a year, or $145 billion over 10 years.
Republicans have held children’s insurance hostage to force Democrats to accept cuts to other programs. Last year, House Republicans insisted that they would reauthorize CHIP only if Democrats agreed to offset spending on the program with cuts to Medicare and a public health program created by the Affordable Care Act. Democrats balked at those demands, given that Republicans did not bother to offset the loss of revenue from their boondoggle tax cuts.
A deal between the two sides should theoretically be easier to reach now. That’s because the C.B.O. said last week that reauthorizing CHIP would add just $800 million to the federal deficit over 10 years, much less than the $8.2 billion it had projected earlier. The budget office updated its estimates after the adoption of the tax law. That law will significantly reduce federal spending on health care by eliminating the requirement that people buy insurance, which many people do with the help of government subsidies. The budget office says that provision and a separate change to insurance regulations by the Trump administration will reduce the cost of insuring children.
Yet funding for CHIP is still far from assured. Congress has a lot on its plate, chiefly passing a spending bill by the end this week to avoid a government shutdown.
If Congress does not act on CHIP, state governments will be forced to freeze enrollment, cut benefits, end their programs or come up with another source of money. For some families, the program, which costs them nothing or very little, is essential. Losing it would be a big blow. Many cannot afford coverage in the private market.
After meeting with Mr. Trump during the weekend at Camp David, Republican leaders suggested they wanted to work with Democrats on bipartisan legislation this year. If they are serious, they can start with CHIP. America’s children are counting on it.
A bomb went off in the center of the Pakistani city of Quetta, capital of the province of Balochistan, killing seven people and wounding 23 on Tuesday, police and hospital officials said.
The blast targeted a police truck close to a high security area where the provincial assembly and other government offices are located. A suicide bomber was believed to have walked up to the truck and blown himself up, senior police officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema told Reuters.
The bodies of five policemen and two civilians, as well as the wounded victims, were brought to the Civil Hospital, Dr Waseem Baig told Reuters, adding that death toll could climb as some of the injured were in serious condition.
The attack took place hours after the provincial chief minister, Sanaullah Zehri, resigned, although there was no indication that the blast was connected to provincial politics.
Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that any government in Balochistan should be more loyal to people of the province instead of Takht-e-Raiwind and expressed confidence that people will elect a Jiyala as their Chief Minister in general elections scheduled this year.
The PPP Chairman was talking to Party’s Balochistan chapter leaders including Provincial President Ali Madad Jattak, General Secretary Iqbal Shah, Information Secretary Sarbulund Khan Jogezai, former Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Baloch, Aijaz Baloch, Rabbani Khilji, and Hafeezul Mulk Mengal who called on the Chairman at Bilawal House. Peoples Youth Organization (PYO) Balochistan President Sanaullah Jattak, Ainuddin Kakar, and Safar Khan Zehri also met the chairman.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PML-N caused immense losses to people of Balochistan and their politics and Sharif brothers have completely failed everywhere it was in power. Meanwhile, Acting Central Information Secretary of PPP Mola Bux Chandio and Acting Central Information Secretary of PPP Parliamentarian MNA Nafeesa Shah called on PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Bilawal House.
Pot calling the kettle black: Imran Khan reserves the right to privacy, but Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto don’t?
A few weeks ago, before the media storm was unleashed by Imran Khan’s alleged third marriage, a friend of mine sent me a WhatsApp message in which he mocked Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. His contention was that Bilawal had “technical” faults and was a closet homosexual. I tried to ignore him at first, but he kept pressing at the issue. I replied by saying that firstly, he had no proof for making such an assertion and secondly, even if it was true, it was his personal matter.
Some days later, I got another message, in which he was desecrating Maryam Nawaz’s character by alleging that she had eloped 25 years ago with Safdar Awan. This allegation perturbed me a lot and I requested him not to make such baseless assertions and reminded him that Maryam’s marriage was her private matter.
Ironically, the same friend texted me in the middle of the media frenzy regarding his leader Imran’s third marriage and started lecturing me about the need for respecting Imran’s private life. Funnily enough, he also sent me the video clip of Bilawal’s short response terming it as the most mature response. I politely reminded him of his earlier texts about Bilawal and Maryam and pointed out his obviously different standards. He chose to remain silent in response.