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Doug Jones Wants Action On This Major Health Policy Before He Takes Office—And It’s Not Obamacare

Senator-elect Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, center, and wife Louise Jones, right, greet the audience at an election night party in Birmingham, Alabama  on Dec. 12, 2017. Senator-elect Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, center, and wife Louise Jones, right, greet the audience at an election night party in Birmingham, Alabama  on Dec. 12, 2017.
Senator-elect Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, center, and wife Louise Jones, right, greet the audience at an election night party in Birmingham, Alabama on Dec. 12, 2017. Nicole Craine—Bloomberg via Getty Images

After his stunning upset win over Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race Tuesday night, Democrat Doug Jones delivered a victory speech that largely centered on themes of unity, dignity, and perseverance. Those are broad political themes designed to reach across party lines. But Senator-elect Jones also singled out a more concrete policy issue—one he urged Congress to take immediate action on: Reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers about 9 million low- to middle-income children across the country and whose funding is about to expire in the coming months.

“I want to make sure, in all seriousness, there are important issues facing this country, there are important issues of health care and jobs and the economy,” said Jones in his Alabama Senate victory address. “So I have a challenge, I have this challenge to my future colleagues in Washington. Don’t wait on me. Take this election from the great state of Alabama. Take this opportunity in light of this election and go ahead and fund that CHIP program before I get up there. Put it aside and let’s do it for those millions of kids and 150,000 here in Birmingham, Alabama.”

CHIP is widely supported on a bipartisan basis. It’s meant to be a coverage bridge for middle class families who make just too much money to qualify for programs like Medicaid but still need assistance in affording health insurance. CHIP funding technically lapsed at the end of September; but Congress still hasn’t been able to agree on a solution for reauthorizing the program due to deep disagreements over how to fund it (and, besides, tax reform and hits on Obamacare have sucked up much of the legislative oxygen).

States have managed to keep CHIP going despite the imminent funding lapse. But they’re not going to be able to keep it up for much longer, as the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation notes.

Kaiser Family Foundation
Kaiser Family Foundation

Parents in several states have already begun receiving letters warning of imminent coverage lapses for their children in the face of Congressional inaction.

It’s unclear whether or not Congress will heed Jones’ call for immediate CHIP renewal. Before the Alabama Senate race, all signs suggested that CHIP would not be reauthorized before the new year.