Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a longtime supporter of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, introduced a bill Wednesday that would ensure the program’s funding for several years after Rockefeller retires at the end of this year.
Today, the CHIP program helps nearly 2 million children who would have no other access to affordable health care. The program also helps another 8 million children, including 37,000 children in West Virginia, get access to health care and services they need, according to Rockefeller, who played a key role in the bipartisan creation of CHIP in 1997 and has participated in efforts to extend and strengthen the program since then.
Rockefeller’s bill, called the Children’s Health Care Insurance Program Extension Act of 2014, would extend CHIP funding through 2019. Without an extension, funding would expire on Sept. 30, 2015.
“When I first came to West Virginia in 1964, I worked with kids who’d gone without seeing a doctor or a dentist because their families had no way of accessing affordable health care services,” Rockefeller said in a news release. “That experience led me to push for greater access to care, including my work to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has significantly reduced the number of uninsured children since its enactment nearly two decades ago.”
The new bill would make several improvements to existing CHIP legislation, Rockefeller said, including covering former foster children until they reach the age of 26, even if they change their state of residence; enrolling newborn children automatically, as is done in Medicaid; and improving access to preventive medical services, such as immunizations and screenings, that CHIP does not currently cover.
In 2009, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, helped Rockefeller pass legislation that preserved the program.
“I am so proud of all this program has accomplished, though we still have work to do until every child in this country has access to the care they need for a healthy start in life,” Rockefeller said.
CHIP legislation also gives states incentives to enroll CHIP-eligible children who are still uninsured, to increase access to dental care and to improve services that specifically help pregnant women.
Under the new legislation, states could also raise the eligibility level of children to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It would also increase access for coverage for children with special health needs.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.