Senator Jay Rockefeller today said the creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program was one of Congress' most important children's health initiatives and is responsible for covering 40,000 West Virginia children and 8 million across the country.
February 4 marks the fourth anniversary of the reauthorization of CHIP, which was originally passed in 1997 based on legislation Rockefeller authored to create the landmark program. The Senator was a leader in the fight for its reauthorization in 2009, and led a successful effort during health reform to extend funding for CHIP for an additional two years, through September 30, 2015.
"Health care is a right, not a privilege, and is essential for giving kids a strong start and fair shot in life," Rockefeller said. "That's why championing CHIP is one of my proudest fights in nearly 50 years of public service."
Today, CHIP and Medicaid together provide access to health care for more than 42 million children across the U.S. and aim to continue lowering the number of children who are uninsured. The CHIP Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009 expanded eligibility to cover more children -- and in 2011, more than 200,000 children were covered by Medicaid or CHIP in West Virginia.
"CHIP was designed to fill a devastating gap in coverage for children who weren't poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid but still were unable to afford or have access to any health insurance," Rockefeller said. "Imagine how hard it must be for a mother or father to decide to wait just one more day in the hopes that a sick child's frightening symptoms will disappear, only to see them worsen in the middle of the night. Without quality coverage, they're stuck with no way out. Today, because of CHIP, millions of families no longer have to face that harsh reality."
Building on the 1997 law Rockefeller championed, the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009 improved benefits for children, launched new initiatives to improve children's health quality, streamlined enrollment procedures and improved state outreach practices. Through actions by the West Virginia Legislature, CHIP has expanded dental and mental health benefits and increased eligibility for vision coverage in the state.
"CHIP has been a huge success in West Virginia -- improving the lives of children and providing economic security for their families," said Renate Pore, with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "We are deeply grateful for Senator Rockefeller's leadership on CHIP and many other programs that have helped West Virginia families."
"My passion for expanding health coverage for children was born in those early days in Emmons, where my moral compass was set. I still well up with deep emotion when I think of all CHIP has accomplished," Rockefeller said. "But while we celebrate this anniversary and all of the improvements to health and dental care for our children, it's a good time to remember that our work is far from over. I will never stop fighting to
see children across West Virginia get the care they rightfully deserve."
Today, Rockefeller is fighting to:
Maintain Medicaid and CHIP for children and families who rely on these vital programs. During health reform, Senator Rockefeller successfully defeated efforts by some to eliminate CHIP and enroll eligible children into less generous and more expensive private health plans starting in 2014.
Extend the CHIPRA "Express Lane" eligibility option through the entire CHIP authorization period. "Express Lane" permits states to use the eligibility information gathered from programs like WIC, school lunch, and other similar programs to help find and enroll (or retain) children who are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.
Extend the CHIPRA performance bonuses to states through the entire CHIP authorization period. Performance bonuses give states an incentive to support enrollment and retention of eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP and helps defray the costs associated with increasing enrollment of the lowest income children. In December 2012, CMS awarded nearly $306 million in FY 2012 CHIPRA Performance Bonuses to 23 states.
For more information about the Children's Health Insurance Program, download the following report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.