October 25, 2017

VIDEO: Udall Urges Bipartisan Action to Fund CHIP and Health Programs Critical to New Mexico

Children’s Health Insurance Program, Community Health Centers, Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program all expired while Republicans were focused on repealing the ACA


Funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians expires in 6 weeks

VIDEO: https://www.facebook.com/senatortomudall/videos/10155611099502870/

WASHINGTON — Today, in a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Tom Udall urged Republicans to work with Democrats to fund critical health programs that benefit thousands of N.M. children, low-income families, and Native Americans. Udall also voiced his support for bipartisan efforts in the Senate to stabilize the individual health insurance markets and protect against President Trump's efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last month, while Republicans were trying pass their fourth attempt to repeal Obamacare, they failed to act and let the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Community Health Centers program, and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program expire, and put off long term funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI).

Failing to fund CHIP has put comprehensive health coverage for almost 9 million children — including over 11,000 kids in New Mexico — at risk. Udall highlighted a family from Anthony, N.M., that was able to afford life-saving cancer treatment for their son, Colton, thanks to their health coverage under CHIP.

"Without CHIP, Colton’s family would have had to pay hundreds of dollars a month for his treatment – the cost of a month’s rent. Families should not have to choose between life-saving care for their children and a roof over their heads," Udall said. "States are looking at contingency plans [for CHIP funding]. New Mexico has reserves – but only until next spring. Some states will be forced to cover all of the cost in just a few months. And others are preparing to send notices to families that their coverage will end. No parent -- who is already in crisis because of a sick child -- should have to go through that."

Udall also discussed the importance of community health centers in New Mexico, which provide essential care to rural communities and deliver comprehensive health care services to some of our nation’s most vulnerable individuals. Community health centers will suffer a 70 percent cut if Congress fails to reauthorize the funding. Udall recently visited a clinic in Ft. Sumner, N.M., the De Baca Family Practice Clinic, which would be forced to severely limit care to its over 3,000 patients if it does not receive full funding.

"Both CHIP and Community Health Centers provide preventive care to underserved communities throughout New Mexico. They are supplementing our health care system to ensure we don't let any families fall through the cracks," Udall said.

Udall also reiterated the need to act on long term funding for SDPI which provides grants for diabetes prevention and management programming for Indian Country. "The disproportionate impact on Native Americans is a public health problem we cannot ignore. This program is making real progress," Udall added. "Congress must act to allow this successful program to reach its full potential. We cannot allow diabetes to become a death sentence in Indian Country once again."

"These programs have years – sometimes decades – of proven success," Udall said. "The American people want Congress to work together – and come up with bipartisan solutions. Most of these programs were created through bipartisan cooperation. Let’s get back to that spirit – and work together for the American people again."

The full text of Udall’s floor remarks is below.

Madam President. Republicans have spent months trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They knew tens of millions of Americans would lose their care. They knew it would betray our federal trust responsibility to Native Americans. And they knew it would throw one-fifth of our economy into chaos.

TrumpCare failed because the American people opposed it. Americans spoke out against it in record numbers. TrumpCare failed to pass four times. We hope now we’ve put that to bed and we can move on.

But rather than listening to millions of Americans, President Trump has responded by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. His reckless behavior is already causing chaos in the marketplace. His actions have hiked up the cost of premiums. He has sent out-of-pocket costs through the roof. And instead of helping Americans get better health care – he has put it out of reach for millions.

I commend our colleagues, Senator Alexander and Senator Murray. They have found a bipartisan solution to this new health care crisis caused by our president. I urge Leader McConnell to put it on to the floor.

But the Affordable Care Act isn’t the only health care program at risk. The president and Republicans are letting funds run dry for other critical health programs.

Last month, the Children’s Health Insurance Program expired. CHIP insures almost 9 million children across the country – including over 11,000 kids in my home state of New Mexico.

The Community Health Centers Program also expired last month.

Republicans failed to extend Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Services. That is one of the most effective health programs we have. Without it, more than 1,000 New Mexico parents could miss out on home visits. They won’t get crucial information about how to nurse their newborns, recognize healthy behavior in infants, and teach basic skills to their children.

And the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is set to expire in December.

I rise today to urge Republicans to work with us to reauthorize these critical health care programs. We need to act urgently. We can get this done by Thanksgiving or earlier if we work together.

Madam President, I want to talk about CHIP first.

CHIP provides comprehensive health insurance for kids whose families don’t quite qualify for Medicaid -- but can’t afford private insurance. CHIP covers basic medical care like immunizations and prescriptions, and routine check-ups and dental visits. Thanks to CHIP, the rate of uninsured kids in America has dropped from 14 percent to 4.5 percent.

CHIP has been a life saver for some families. This is Colton. He’s from the small town of Anthony, New Mexico. Colton was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was treatable -- and he was insured by CHIP. So the cost of his treatment and medications were covered. Without CHIP, Colton’s family would have had to pay hundreds of dollars a month for his treatment – the cost of a month’s rent.

Families should not have to choose between life-saving care for their children and a roof over their heads.

Colton’s father wrote to the Santa Fe New Mexican: “Watching my son battle for his life was almost more than I could bear. I couldn’t imagine dealing with the stress of scraping together everything we had to cover the medical bills if we didn’t have coverage. Having [CHIP] allowed us to focus on what was truly important — Colton’s future and being there for my family as we went through this life-changing experience.”

But now, states are looking at contingency plans. New Mexico has reserves – but only until next spring. Some states will be forced to cover all of the cost in just a few months. And others are preparing to send notices to families that their coverage will end. No parent -- who is already in crisis because of a sick child -- should have to go through that.

Madam President, CHIP was a bipartisan success story. I hope we can get back to working together on this.

Madam President, the 50-year-old Community Health Centers Program delivers comprehensive health care services to some of our nation’s most vulnerable individuals. School children, people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, and veterans benefit from the excellent care.

In New Mexico, 17 of these clinics serve 330,000 patients in 90 underserved and rural communities.

And community health centers are important to the economy in rural communities. In New Mexico, they employ almost 3,000 people across the state.

These clinics cannot sustain a 70 percent funding cut if federal support is canceled. Many would be forced to shut their doors.

I recently visited one of these clinics -- the De Baca Family Practice Clinic in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. It provides high quality medical services to over 3,000 patients. Over one-fifth of its patients are children. Another one-fifth are seniors.

But if funding runs out, the De Baca clinic will be forced to start laying off essential medical staff and to reduce its hours.
Clinic director Lisa Walraven told me, “You simply cannot reduce funding by 70% from a small frontier healthcare facility and expect anything other than a significant loss of access to care.”

Both CHIP and Community Health Centers provide preventive care to underserved communities throughout New Mexico. They are supplementing our health care system to ensure we don't let any families fall through the cracks.

Indian Country also depends on these programs and others like them to provide vital care to their communities.

The federal government has a trust and treaty obligation to provide health care to Native Americans. And yet the Indian Health Service is severely underfunded. CHIP and similar programs help supplement care that the Indian Health Service can’t provide.

CHIP currently covers more than 1,400 Native American children in New Mexico.

Allowing these programs to expire would betray our treaty obligations.

Another program cited that is critical to Indian Country is the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. It provides grants to Native communities for diabetes treatment and prevention. Without proper treatment, diabetes can lead to limb amputation and kidney failure. The disproportionate impact on Native Americans is a public health problem we can't ignore.

This program is making real progress. It helps fund over 300 Native health programs in 35 states -- including 29 programs in New Mexico. They help educate communities about how to prevent diabetes and provide care so Native patients can manage their diabetes more effectively.

It is one of the most effective public health initiatives ever undertaken by the federal government. Diabetes related kidney failure has dropped by 54% among Native Americans. In some states, like Alaska, leg amputations among Native people with diabetes have decreased more than 68%. This program literally saves life and limb.

Program directors across Indian Country tell me that -- without this funding -- they will have to start laying off staff and limiting their diabetes programming.

We need to provide funding to Tribal communities so they can invest in projects that will be more effective in preventing diabetes over time. Congress must act to allow this successful program to reach its full potential. We cannot allow diabetes to become a death sentence in Indian Country once again.

Mister President, the failure to fund CHIP, failure to fund community health centers, home visiting services, and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians will soon force families into another health crisis. Every day we neglect these programs, more people will suffer.

These programs have years – sometimes decades – of proven success.

The American people want Congress to work together – and come up with bipartisan solutions. Most of these programs were created through bipartisan cooperation. Let’s get back to that spirit – and work together for the American people again.

I yield the floor.