CHIP repeal could keep lead in Flint, MI pipes

In September, Congress allowed authorization for the Children's Health Insurance Program to lapse amid the GOP push to pass a tax cut bill that heavily favors the wealthy and corporations. Now, Republicans are using that program as a bargaining chip to negotiate a continuing resolution to keep the government running.

CHIP provides federal matching funds that help states provide health insurance for low-income families with children. According to analysis by The Center for Michigan, nearly 116,000 Michigan children depend on CHIP to help them provide health care, primarily in rural areas where Donald Trump won handily in the 2016 election with promises of protecting the “forgotten man.”

As if potentially taking health care away from more than 100,000 Michigan children weren’t enough, last year Michigan was granted special permission to use up to $119 million in federal funds from the CHIP program for lead abatement over the next five years.

Lead abatement is especially important to Michigan because of the Flint Water Crisis that began in 2014 when a Gov. Rick Snyder administration appointee switched Flint from Detroit’s water to water from the Flint River. Refusing to add an anti-corrosive agent to the water led to the leaking of lead into the water Flint residents used to drink, cook, and bathe themselves.

Now, Michigan is using CHIP funds to help solve the issues that began in Flint but have since raised worries about lead exposure in other communities across Michigan, particularly in low-income urban areas.

According to Bridge Magazine, these funds have already been used to provide lead abatement to 159 homes in Michigan and are set to help replace 1,000 lead service lines that provide water to the Flint area. What will happen if Congress fails to act swiftly on a reauthorization of CHIP is unclear.