MedicaidExpansion.011316 99.jpg

From left to right, Gov. John Bel Edwards, flanked by Dept. of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee, MD (center), shakes hands in January 2016 with his health care transition team co-chairs, Gary Wiltz, CEO of Teche Action Clinic, and Ronald A. Goux, president of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, at the State Capitol after Edwards signed his his first executive order to provide for Medicaid expansion in the state of Louisiana.

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING

In 1948, when President Harry Truman was far behind in the polls and expecting to lose the fall election, he called Congress back into session and challenged it to pass key legislation that the majority Republicans had opposed.

Maybe it was pure theater, but it worked: The president stumped the nation to criticize the "do-nothing Congress." Truman beat Dewey, contra the famous headline.

Now Congress is in session all the time, it seems.

But like "Give-em-hell Harry," many Americans would say that the title of do-nothing Congress still applies.

In Louisiana, we have about four months remaining of federal money needed to pay for health insurance coverage for low-income children and pregnant women. We are far from the only state in that boat, although a few states will run out of spending authority sooner and will have to freeze spending for these vital services.

And this is for a program that majorities in both House and Senate say they support. Yet the federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30 without reauthorization for the program.

LaCHIP, as its Louisiana version is called, is not an entitlement program, but is authorized for specific amounts by Congress, so reauthorization was no mere formality.

Most states will have enough money to continue services into about the second quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, which in Louisiana began July 1. But after those few months, the shortfall will be at least $31 million to keep the coverage in place, or to reduce the services covered.

The state Department of Health estimated that as many as one in six children and pregnant women who otherwise would be eligible for the program in Louisiana could lose coverage if Congress doesn't act soon.

Act? Soon?

LaCHIP and the other programs around the nation have bipartisan popularity. When former Gov. Bobby Jindal headed Lousiana's health department, he was a big supporter of LaCHIP. It's perplexing that a program that is relatively uncontroversial cannot get to the finish line by the end of the federal fiscal year.

But, of course, there have been a lot of controversial programs not making it this year, from "repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act, to more modest "Obamacare" patching, to reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, the latter of great importance to Louisiana. Not to mention full funding of the emergency aid needed in Louisiana from the disastrous 2016 flooding.

Act. Soon.