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Pryor Throws Support Behind Bill to Get Children the Health Care They Need

Location: Washington, DC

Pryor Throws Support Behind Bill to Get Children the Health Care They Need

Cites 5-Year-Old Arkansan as Local Success Story

Senator Mark Pryor today made the following statement on the Senate floor in support legislation to reauthorize and improve the Children's Health Insurance Program, commonly referred to as ARKids First B program in Arkansas. The program currently ensures 64,000 low-income, uninsured Arkansas children receive doctor visits and prescription medicines when necessary.

I rise today in full support of renewing and improving the Children's Health Insurance Program. In Arkansas, we know this program as ARKids First B. In my state and throughout the country, this program ensures low-income, uninsured children get the doctor visits and medicines they need when they are sick, and the checkups they need to stay healthy. This program has been highly effective, and I believe the bill before us will build upon this success.

In 2007, this program covered more than 64,000 Arkansas children and more than 4.4 million children nationally. Connar of Poyen, Arkansas is just one child who benefited. At 5-years-old, he has undergone multiple surgeries to restore his hearing. Without the Children's Health Insurance Program, his grandma (who cares for him) would have never been able to afford the doctor's appointments and medical care. Today, he has overcome his hearing loss and related developmental delays. He is ready and able to enter kindergarten, which will help prepare him for a lifetime of success.

Connar is considered lucky. That same year, 9.4 million children went without access to doctors, life-saving prescription drugs, immunizations, preventive screenings and the basic medical care they need. That's 1 out of every 9 children who slipped through the crack between Medicaid and private insurance.

Since then, pink slips have multiplied. And more than ever parents are making the tough decision to provide their family with a roof over their heads and forego health care coverage. When these kids don't get medicine or proper medical care, we see them in emergency rooms in a lot of pain and at a greater cost to the taxpayer.

This body will have an important vote to cast this week. We will determine who will see a doctor and who will not. Will children like Connar receive the critical care they need? Or will we abandon them like the 9 million others?

I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle not to turn this moral issue into an ideological debate. Children deserve a healthy start in life regardless of their parent's wealth. Senators Baucus and Rockefeller have produced a compassionate and cost-effective bill that provides this opportunity for millions of children. That's what I want for the children in Arkansas and our nation.

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