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Public Statements

Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I voted against the Hatch amendment for the following reasons.

This amendment sought to codify in law a legal concept of unborn children, therefore establishing the fetus as protected separately from the mother. The need to provide health care coverage for expectant mothers is clear and the State Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization being considered allows States to provide coverage to pregnant mothers.

While I support the policy of providing health coverage to pregnant mothers in the pending legislation, this amendment is an effort to advance a political cause rather than provide a medical necessity.

This amendment has no practical effect in terms of health care coverage for pregnant women.

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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I seek recognition to voice my support for the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. In voicing my support, I must note that the bipartisan support that accompanied the drafting of this bill's predecessor in the 110th Congress was absent in this bill's introduction in the 111th Congress. The legislation was revised without working across the aisle, which has resulted in a bill that is not as widely supported as its predecessor. Children's health is the wrong issue on which to push partisan politics.

When we last debated the Children's Health Insurance Program in the 110th Congress, I was proud to lend my support to what I believe was a good, bipartisan bill. I voted in favor of the legislation twice, on August 2, 2007 and again on September 25, 2007. I was very disappointed in President Bush's veto of the legislation resulting in the delay of critical access to health care for millions of children.

This important legislation will revise and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, SCHIP, enabling it to provide access to medical coverage to an additional 5.5 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance. Nationwide, 7 million children are currently enrolled in SCHIP, including 183,981 in Pennsylvania.

The reauthorized bill will provide an estimated 4.1 million children with access to health care coverage. To achieve that increase, the bill extends coverage to children in families with an annual income at or below 300 percent of the poverty level, or $66,150 for a family of four. The triple-the-poverty-level rate would bring the Nation in line with Pennsylvania's current plan.

It is imperative that we take steps to ensure health care coverage for our most important resource, our children. In a January 12, 2009, column in The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne wrote, ``[S]tates have enacted budget cuts that will leave some 275,000 people without health coverage ..... By the end of this year, if further proposed [State budget] cuts go through, the number losing health coverage nationwide could rise to more than 1 million, almost half of them children.'' Congress can, and should, act to make sure children's health care does not suffer as a result of the economic downturn.

Throughout my time in the Senate, I have consistently supported providing
quality health care to children, including prenatal care. To improve pregnancy outcomes for women at risk of delivering babies of low birth weight and reduce infant mortality and the incidence of low-birth-weight births, I initiated action that led to the creation of the Healthy Start program in 1991. Working with the first Bush administration and Senator Harkin, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, we allocated $25 million in 1991 for the development of 15 demonstration projects. For fiscal year 2008, we secured $99.7 million for 96 projects in this vital program. Health care initiatives like the Healthy Start program and the Children's Health Insurance Program are key to improving the health and well-being of children in this country.

The health care work of the 111th Congress will not be complete with just the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. This legislation will address the needs of some of the most vulnerable children, but Congress must act in a bipartisan fashion to address health reform so that all of America's 47 million uninsured have access to adequate health care.

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