- Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel criticized Congress for failing to reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers almost 9 million lower-income kids.
- Most states are on track to run out of their reserves of CHIP money by March.
- Congress has been unable to reconcile debates on how to fund CHIP even as it pushes ahead with a bill that would give tax breaks to many wealthy Americans.
TV funnyman Jimmy Kimmel blasted Congress in a tearful monologue Monday for repeatedly failing to renew funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program this fall.
"I don't know about you, I've had enough of this," fumed Kimmel, who began his late-night TV show while holding his 8-month-old son Billy, who last week had his second heart surgery.
"I don't know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that goes mostly to rich people ahead of the lives of children," said Kimmel, who previously has used his show's opening monologue, and emotionally cited his son's heart condition, to oppose rollbacks of Obamacare health coverage.
"Why hasn't CHIP been funded already?" the host of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" asked.
"If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now."
Kimmel told viewers, "I'm asking you, Billy's asking you, to make two phone calls you shouldn't have to make, jam the House and Senate phones tonight, tomorrow, as long as it takes, tell them to take a break from tax cuts and fully fund CHIP."
Kimmel's scathing criticism comes more than two months after the Sept. 30 expiration of authorization for CHIP funding, a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage to almost 9 million low-income children and more than 300,000 pregnant women.
Sixteen states expect to run out of CHIP reserve funds by the end of January, and three-quarters of the states expect to do so by March.
Virginia on Tuesday plans to warn CHIP enrollees in a letter that their coverage could come to an end Jan. 31 if Congress fails to act.
Congress, instead of cutting a deal to restore the funding, has instead focused efforts on a tax bill that would lead to big tax cuts for many wealthy Americans. Efforts to restore CHIP's authorization have been bogged down amid debates over how to pay for the program and the duration of a new authorization.
CHIP is broadly popular across members of Congress, regardless of political party.
Kimmel, during his monologue, noted that the last time CHIP funding was reauthorized, in 2015, "it passed with a vote of 392 to 37 in the House and 92 to 8 in the Senate."
"Overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans supported it. Until now," Kimmel said.
"Now CHIP has become a bargaining chip. It's on the back burner while they work out their new tax plans, which means parents of children with cancer, diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month," Kimmel said. "Merry Christmas, right?"
"This is literally a life-and-death program for American kids," he said. "It's always had bipartisan support. But this year, they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their billionaire and millionaire donors."