WASHINGTON, D.C. – With federal funding to provide health coverage to nearly 12,000 Cleveland-area children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) set to expire, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced a plan that would extend funding for the current program through 2019 at University Hospitals (UH) Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital today. Congress must act now to prevent an expiration of CHIP funding – currently set to expire in September. Brown will be the lead sponsor of legislation to extend funding for this critical program. In advance of today’s news conference call, Brown released a county-by-county snapshot of the number Ohio children who rely on CHIP for health coverage.
“Providing health insurance to low-income children isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” Brown said. “CHIP provides more than 130,000 Ohio children the ability to grow into healthy adults through affordable health insurance. As states begin the process of budgeting for the next fiscal year, they need the financial certainty that federal funds will be there to help fund this crucial program. If Congress doesn’t act now, Ohio stands to lose up to $146 million in federal funds in 2016 alone. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass a funding extension for this program immediately.”
Joining Brown to call for Congressional action were Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director of Child Advocacy and Protection at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and Shonte Sanders, a Cleveland mother whose son could lose his comprehensive health coverage if funding is not extended.
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 10 million children, including more than 130,000 Ohioans. Without action, federal funding for CHIP will expire in September 2015.
In 2013, Ohio received $376 million in federal match dollars to help fund CHIP in the state. These federal dollars cover nearly 75 percent of the state’s expenditures for children between 156 and 206 percent of the federal poverty level. Underscoring the need for Congressional action, 40 governors – including Ohio governor John Kasich – have sent letters to Congressional representatives urging swift action to extend the current program. The need for prompt federal action is crucial as states begin the process of constructing their annual budgets. If Congress doesn’t act swiftly to extend funding, Ohio could lose out on up to an estimated $146 million in federal funds in 2016 alone.
While Brown will introduce standalone legislation to extend funding for CHIP, Brown – a member of the Senate Finance Committee – also introduced an amendment to the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 that would extend CHIP funding for four years during this past Wednesday’s Committee markup.
Brown is a champion for improving children’s health in Ohio. Last year, his landmark legislation to battle back against the rise in infant mortality was signed into law by President Obama. The Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act will build on existing activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve upon the quality and consistency of data collected during death scene investigations and autopsies to better inform prevention and intervention efforts related to stillbirths, Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), and Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Childhood (SUDC). This collaboration with the states to enhance current methods of data collection across existing surveillance systems will enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses. In addition, the legislation requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disseminate information related to stillbirths, SUID, and SUDC to educate the public, health care providers, and other stakeholders involved in investigating the deaths of infants and young children so that everyone is on the same page.
In April 2014, Brown applauded President Obama signing into law legislation to reauthorize the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) payment program. While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives as the Ranking Democrat on a key health subcommittee, Brown authored the Children’s Hospitals Education and Research Act of 1998, which first proposed the CHGME program. CHGME ensures continued medical training for professionals treating children and has provided funding to seven Ohio children’s hospitals over the years.