Warner, Kaine co-sponsor bill to extend Children’s Health Insurance Program

healthcareWith federal funding that provides health care coverage to more than 10 million children nationwide through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) set to expire, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine today joined 38 of their Senate colleagues to introduce legislation that would extend CHIP funding through 2019. If Congress fails to extend CHIP, funding for the program will lapse in September 2015, leaving millions of children and pregnant women nationwide, including more than 196,000 in Virginia, without access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage.

“I am a big believer in the tremendous role of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in providing access to  quality health coverage for Virginia’s children and working families,” Warner said. “One of my proudest accomplishments as Governor was a dramatic turn-around in Virginia’s underperforming CHIP program. We broke down barriers to enrollment, amped-up community outreach, and eventually enrolled 98% of Virginia’s eligible children. This CHIP partnership helps thousands of Virginia families access safe, affordable health care for their kids, and we should make sure its funding does not expire.”

“I’m proud to support funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which protects comprehensive health care coverage for more than 196,000 children in Virginia,” said Kaine. “Without this program, hardworking families would be stuck with unreasonable out-of-pocket costs and many children would go uninsured.  Funding CHIP is critical to ensuring that children across Virginia continue to receive high-quality health care.”

The lead sponsors of the Protecting & Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015 (PRO-CHIP)  are U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Also cosponsoring the bill are: Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-MD), and U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michel Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

CHIP, which was created in 1997, is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low- to moderate-income children and pregnant women who are not Medicaid eligible. Within three years of its initial passage, all 50 states opted into the program, providing millions with access to health insurance. Underscoring the need for Congressional action, 40 governors sent letters last year to Congressional representatives urging swift action to extend the current program. The need for prompt federal action is crucial as states begin the process of constructing their annual budgets.

In addition to extending CHIP funding for four years, the PRO-CHIP Act also extends other critical components of the program. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Extend the CHIP contingency fund to protect states that may experience a funding shortfall;
  • Extend and update the Performance Incentive and Pediatric Quality Measures Programs
  • Extend the Qualifying State Option
  • Extend the CHIP obesity and quality demonstrations
  • Extend outreach and enrollment grants
  • Extend authority for the express lane option and SNAP waiver authority for streamlined eligibility determinations

For a section-by-section summary of the bill, click here.

Today, U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX-29), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also introduced a bill to extend CHIP funding through 2019. In addition to extending the program, the bill makes a number of improvements to reduce bureaucracy and increase state flexibility.

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