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WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor to call on Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as Healthy Start in Ohio, for five years rather than the current three-month extension proposed by Congressional leadership. In October, Brown’s bipartisan bill to extend funding for CHIP for five years passed the Senate Finance Committee, but Senate leadership has yet to take up the bill on the Senate floor.
“This body passed massive, permanent tax cuts for corporations, but can’t give families more certainty than three months? It’s past time for folks in Congress with taxpayer-funded health care, to do their jobs and extend CHIP, so families don’t pay the price,” said Brown.
Brown highlighted the story of Noble Lett on the Senate Floor. Noble was born with a rare genetic disorder, and while the Lett’s insurance plan would only cover part of Noble’s treatment, because of CHIP, Noble has access to the high-quality healthcare he deserves.
CHIP, which was created in 1997, is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low to moderate income children and pregnant women who are not Medicaid eligible. Within three years of its initial passage, all 50 states opted into the program, providing millions with access to health insurance. Nationwide, CHIP provides access to comprehensive, affordable coverage to more than nine million children and Healthy Start helps cover more than 209,000 Ohioans.
Brown led efforts in the Senate to protect CHIP and the vital coverage it provides children and pregnant women nationwide in 2015. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 extended funding for CHIP for two years, through September of 2017.
In September, Brown joined families in Cincinnati and Cleveland to call for funding extension for CHIP. Earlier this year, Brown also secured a commitment from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to work with Brown on extending CHIP.
Brown was the lead sponsor of the Protecting and Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program (PRO-CHIP) Act of 2015 in the Senate, which would have extended the program through 2019.
Text of Brown’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:
Yesterday, a bunch of members of Congress with healthcare paid for by taxpayers were at the White House celebrating a handout for corporations that send jobs overseas – while families here in America were getting letters in the mail saying their kids are about to get kicked off of their health insurance through CHIP.
That’s right, because Congress hasn’t done its job, families in some states have already started getting letters bringing devastating news: their children could lose their health care in the New Year.
A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families reports that 1.9 million children could lose coverage in January – next month – if Congress doesn’t act.
Another one million could lose insurance by the end of February.
Parents are panicked and confused.
Think about those families, getting that letter in the mail.
It should be a joyful time of year for families, spending time with family and enjoying the holidays.
Imagine checking your mailbox, expecting Christmas cards, and finding that letter instead.
Imagine having to tell your daughter, I’m sorry, Santa probably isn’t bringing much this year, and we won’t have many presents under the tree.
Imagine trying to not let your child see the worry in your eyes, because you just got this letter in the mail, and now you’re wondering how you’ll afford to take her to the doctor when she gets sick.
These are often families with two working parents, who aren’t lucky enough to work for companies that offer health insurance coverage for their entire family.
Or they’re families with children who have special needs, like Crystal Lett and her son Noble, a first-grader in Dublin, Ohio.
I met Crystal and Noble this spring, when they came all the way from Ohio to talk about what CHIP means to their family.
Noble was born with a rare genetic disorder. He needs three therapy sessions a week, and daily hormone injections, to treat his condition. His medications run $1,500 a month.
I talked to Crystal at the end of last month. She and her family are scared to death about what will happen to them if Congress doesn’t save CHIP.
She said, CHIP is “the difference between living a middle class lifestyle, or being part of the poverty line.”
Congress had time to hand out massive tax cuts to the richest Americans and the biggest corporations, but doesn’t have the time to help these families?
It’s a disgrace.
This is a program that was created in a bipartisan way, that has always been bipartisan, and that still has bipartisan support today.
We passed a bipartisan CHIP extension out of the Finance Committee overwhelmingly.
It’s ready to go. And if Republican leaders put it on the floor today, it would pass. There is no excuse for this delay that is hurting families.
Right now, there’s talk the House is going to pass a three-month CHIP extension.
This is unacceptable.
Three months provides no certainty for families. And it provides no certainty for states.
States like Alabama and Virginia are already taking steps to close down their programs and freeze enrollment.
They have to give families a head’s up, so these parents have time to do what they can – whether it’s try to find an alternative source of coverage, or try to fit in one more doctor’s appointment before their coverage lapses.
Providing a three-month extension doesn’t solve the problem, it just makes the situation more complicated for families and kids across the country.
This body passed massive, permanent tax cuts for corporations, but can’t give families more certainty than three months?
I want my colleagues here in Congress to explain to Crystal and so many mothers and fathers like her why corporate tax cuts are more important than their children’s health.
There are more than 209,000 Ohio children who rely on this program. That’s more than enough to fill the Buckeye football stadium twice over.
Senator Hatch said last month that we were going to get this done, but now we’re hearing that Senator McConnell is only going to let us vote on a three month extension of the program.
This is about whose side you’re on. Do we work for the corporations that send our jobs overseas, or for the children who may wake up on Christmas morning without health insurance?
It’s past time for folks in Congress with taxpayer-funded health care, to do their jobs and extend CHIP, so families don’t pay the price.