YOUNGSTOWN, OH – With federal funding that provides health coverage to more than 6,000 children in the Mahoning Valley set to expire, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined his plan to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) during a press conference at the at the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley today. Congress must act now to prevent an expiration of funding for CHIP – currently set to expire in September. Last month, Brown introduced legislation to extend funding for this critical program through 2019.

“We can’t turn our backs on health coverage that allows children to grow into healthy, active adults,” Brown said. “Since its creation in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided affordable, comprehensive health care for children who might not otherwise have access to coverage. This lifeline program has cut the number of uninsured children in half and has garnered broad bipartisan support. But now, despite its success here in the Mahoning Valley and nationwide, CHIP’s future is in jeopardy – as is the health and well-being of our kids. It’s clear that letting this program expire is not an option. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the right thing for our kids and extend funding for the current program without delay.”

Joining Brown to call for Congressional action were Dr. Rob McGregor, Chief Medical Officer at Akron Children’s Hospital, and Ericka Flaherty, a Mahoning Valley parent whose children could lose comprehensive health coverage if funding is not extended.

Nationwide, CHIP provides access to comprehensive, affordable coverage to more than 10 million children, including more than 130,000 Ohioans. Brown released a county-by-county snapshot of the number Ohio children who rely on CHIP for health coverage.

The Protecting & Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015 (PRO-CHIP), which Brown introduced last month, would extend funding for the current CHIP through 2019, consistent with its current authorization. Without action, federal funding for CHIP will expire in September 2015 – jeopardizing the health care coverage of 130,000 Ohioans, and more than 10 million children nationwide. Ohio could lose out on up to an estimated $146 million in federal funds in 2016 alone if Congress allows CHIP’s funding to expire.

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. Underscoring the need for Congressional action, 40 governors – including Ohio governor John Kasich – sent letters last year 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.

PRO-CHIP is a clean extension of the current CHIP program. In addition to extending CHIP funding for four years, PRO-CHIP also extends other critical components of the program. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Extend the CHIP contingency fund to protect states that may experience a funding shortfall;
  • Extend and update the Performance Incentive and Pediatric Quality Measures Programs;
  • Extend the Qualifying State Option;
  • Extend the CHIP obesity and quality demonstrations;
  • Extend outreach and enrollment grants; and
  • Extend authority for the express lane option and SNAP waiver authority for streamlined eligibility determinations.

For a section-by-section summary of the bill – which was cosponsored by more than 40 senators – click here. PRO-CHIP has been endorsed by every Ohio children’s hospital as well as several national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, First Focus, and the Children’s Defense Fund.