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Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



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

Let me tell one story. In 2007, this program covered more than 64,000 Arkansas children and more than 4.4 million children nationally. There is a young boy named Connar in a little town called Poyen, AR. Poyen is in Grant County. The population of the whole town is 272 people. It is on a State highway--229--in part of our State that is challenged in getting health care to its citizens. At 5 years old, he had very serious hearing problems. He underwent multiple surgeries to restore his hearing. Without the Children's Health Insurance Program, his grandmother would have never been able to afford the appointments and medical care. The good news is, today, after these surgeries and after his treatment, he has overcome his hearing loss and his related developmental delays.

What that means is he will now be able to enter kindergarten with other kids his age. We prepared him for a lifetime of success through this program. That means he will not have to have special education, he will not have to have other programs available to him for him to function in society. We made the downpayment on his future with the Children's Health Insurance Program.

But he is lucky because that same year, 2007, there were 9.4 million children who went without access to doctors, lifesaving prescription drugs, immunizations, preventive screenings, and the basic medical care they need. That is 1 out of every 9 children in this country who slipped through the cracks between Medicaid and private insurance.

Since then, since 2007, 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 forgo health care coverage. When these kids don't get medicine and proper medical care, we see them in emergency rooms in a lot of pain and at a greater cost to the taxpayer.

As you know, there have been studies--one I am familiar with in the State of Arizona, but there have been many other studies--that compare what this program costs to the cost of not having the program. It is actually cheaper to the taxpayer, much cheaper to society in the big picture to have this program get these kids the medical care they need when they need it.

This body will have an important vote to cast this week that will determine who will see a doctor and who will not. Will children such as Connar receive the critical care they need or will we abandon them, abandon him like we have 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 the parents' wealth. Senators Baucus and Rockefeller have produced a compassionate and cost-effective bill that provides this opportunity for millions of children. That is what I want for the children in my State of Arkansas and for the children of our Nation.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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