WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.), have signed on as original cosponsors of legislation that would ensure continued health care coverage to more than 135,000 children in Maryland. Senators Mikulski and Cardin joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in introducing legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2019. If Congress fails to act, federal funding for CHIP will end on September 30, 2015, leaving millions children and pregnant women nationwide without, health care coverage.
“No child in Maryland or in the nation should be without health care,” said Senator Ben Cardin. ”By extending the federal funding CHIP program through 2019, we are making sure that states and health departments will have the resources needed to reach out and make sure every child who is eligible for Medicaid or CHIP is enrolled. Thanks to CHIP, we now have the highest number in history of children who are insured with medical and dental insurance. I am particularly proud that we guarantee dental benefits for millions of children through CHIP. Good oral health is essential for our children to thrive.”
“I fought to create the CHIP program in 1997 so that children across America, regardless of their parent’s income, would have access to quality, affordable healthcare. I have been fighting ever since to expand coverage and increase payment to states,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “States want to do the right thing, but they can’t do it on their own. That’s why this CHIP extension is so important. I will keep fighting, so that the federal government fulfills its responsibilities to America’s families, America’s children and America’s future.”
S. 522, the Protecting & Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015 (PRO-CHIP), would extend federal funding for CHIP through 2019. Without action, funding for CHIP will expire on September 30, 2015. This would jeopardize the health care coverage of over 135,000 Marylanders, and more than 10 million children and pregnant women nationwide. Maryland operates a Medicaid expansion CHIP program, called Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHIP). In 2009, Senator Cardin fought to have guaranteed pediatric dental care added to the CHIP reauthorization. PRO-CHIP would ensure that millions of children across America would continue to have access to quality, affordable dental care. Washington, D.C. operates a Medicaid expansion CHIP program, called Healthy Families. In FY2013, 9,057 children were covered under the program.
CHIP, which Senator Mikulski fought to create 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 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.
In addition to extending CHIP funding for four years, the PRO-CHIP Act 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 access to pediatric dental care included in 2009 reauthorization
- 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.