The Senate Has Another Chance to Act on CHIP

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Washington, December 15, 2017 | Beth Breeding (2022255431) | comments
While the House has taken action to reauthorize CHIP, the Senate has yet to act.
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Nearly 70,000 Virginia children and pregnant women benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. That includes more than 6,400 in the Sixth District using this program for checkups, immunizations, and treatment for serious health conditions. But in recent weeks, CHIP has gained a growing amount of media attention, and not for a good reason. Federal authorization for CHIP lapsed at the end of September. While luckily Virginia’s program has enough funding to last through January 31, after that date the fund will be exhausted. Time is running out for Congress to reauthorize this program and ensure more than 9 million low-income children in the United States have access to health coverage.

The CHIP program was created during the Clinton Administration in 1997 to provide health coverage to low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid. CHIP is funded jointly by the states and the federal government and each state administers their own program. In Virginia, CHIP funding is used for the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) program. On December 11, Governor McAuliffe announced the state began the process of notifying Virginia families with one or more family members who are enrolled in CHIP that they will lose their coverage effective January 31, unless the program is reauthorized.

Unfortunately, this historically bipartisan program has hit a roadblock in the Senate. The CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, which I supported, passed the House in early November by a bipartisan vote and would reauthorize the CHIP program for five years. It also includes reauthorization for popular public health programs like Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, and the Special Diabetes Program, all of which are used on a daily basis by folks in the Sixth District. While the House has taken action to reauthorize the program, the Senate has yet to act. It’s frustrating that the Senate has failed to take up the House bill or even pass one of their own so that we can sort out any differences in a bipartisan conference.

I’ve heard from many folks in the Sixth District who want to see this program preserved, and I want you to know that I support this program and have been working hard on your behalf to ensure that Virginians have access to CHIP. I have joined in asking Senate Leadership to move a bill forward, and called on Virginia’s senators to urge the same.

Further delay on this issue is not acceptable. Just a few days ago, leadership in the House announced that the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act will be included in end-of-year funding legislation set to be taken up by Congress. The Senate will now have another opportunity to reauthorize CHIP. It’s not a partisan matter – let’s extend CHIP and provide some certainty to Virginians that coverage for low-income children will continue in the New Year.
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