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Finance Committee Vote Paves Way for Senate Passage of Children's Health Program

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Finance Committee Vote Paves Way for Senate Passage of Children's Health Program

Following the Senate Finance Committee's vote today to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Senator John Kerry, a senior member of the Committee, urged Congress to immediately pass the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009.

"We cannot stand by as the ranks of the uninsured rise and American families find themselves in peril, especially during these uncertain economic times," said Kerry. "S-CHIP reauthorization is long overdue - we must not further delay its reauthorization while millions of children are without health care."

Today nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, including 11 million under the age of 21. This legislation will provide health insurance to an additional 3.9 million children and preserve coverage for 6.7 million, including more than 90,000 in Massachusetts.

Two critical Kerry provisions are included in the bill. The first extends to children enrolled in SCHIP the same mental health benefits now available to adults, ending discriminatory limits that prevent low-income children from receiving necessary mental health services. Senator Kerry first introduced the Children's Mental Health Parity Act in May of 2007.

The second provision directs the Small Business Administration to post S-CHIP and Medicaid eligibility criteria and enrollment information on its website, and to report back to the Senate and House Committees on Small Business regarding the status and successes of the task force's efforts to enroll eligible kids. This provision will help improve access to health care for children who are eligible for S-CHIP, but not enrolled in the program.

"Families in Massachusetts and across this country are struggling with how to make ends meet," said Kerry. "By providing desperately needed health care coverage to our nation's most vulnerable, we can help take one worry off their plates."

As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, Kerry has fought over the years to lower the growing number of uninsured children in America. In 2005, he sponsored the "Kids Come First Act," legislation to provide health care coverage to every single uninsured child in America.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the legislation this afternoon by a vote of 12 to 7. The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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