WASHINGTON D.C. — Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization this week, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a key architect of the law who led its reauthorization in 2009 with former Senators Ted Kennedy (MA) and Olympia Snowe (ME), hailed the law’s benefits which have greatly improved health outcomes for children who would have otherwise been without access to health care. Currently, CHIP covers eight million children nationwide and 37,000 children in West Virginia.
“CHIP has made profound positive changes in the lives of millions of American children and their families. The law has opened the door to coverage for all children so they’re able to access critical health, dental and mental health care, which are all important to a healthy start in life. I am so proud to have been part of the important efforts so far to ensure access to vital care for our nation’s youth,” Rockefeller said. “We are on our way to achieving full coverage for all of our nation’s children, but we must do more. Later this year we will have another opportunity to extend and strengthen CHIP so that working families can continue to have an affordable and dependable option for protecting the health and well-being of their children.”
Building on his long-standing commitment to bring health care access to working families, the underserved and disabled, Rockefeller today introduced the Medicaid and CHIP Continuous Quality Act (MCQA). The legislation would further strengthen Medicaid and CHIP by:
· Eliminating inconsistent care by requiring 12 month “continuous eligibility” in Medicaid and CHIP;
· Providing performance bonuses to states for meeting specified criteria for enrollment and retention in the Medicaid program; and
· Making accurate reports on the quality of care provided by these programs possible for the first time.
In April 2007, speaking on the Senate floor about the introduction of the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2007, Rockefeller reflected on his experience as a VISTA volunteer in Emmons, WV, and how it influenced his decision to focus throughout his career on improving access to health care for children.
“In 1964, when I first came to West Virginia as a VISTA volunteer in Emmons, I was shocked to learn that many of the school-age children living there had never been to a dentist before. I made raising health care standards one of my first priorities in Emmons, and we ultimately got a bus to bring children to the Tiskelwah grade school in Charleston for dental care… A healthy start in life is a necessary component in preparing our children to lead healthy, happy and productive lives in the future,” Rockefeller said in 2007.
“Since it was reauthorized by Congress five years ago, CHIP continued to provide dependable quality health coverage affordable for West Virginia families. The number of uninsured children under 200 percent of the poverty level has dropped by more than 40 percent points since the program began. Looking towards 2015 and no Congressional appropriation, we face the issue of how CHIP will best continue to serve these families and how it can best transition through changes under the ACA. We know Senator Rockefeller will do his utmost to assure this transition happens in a way that does not compromise these gains,” said Sharon Carte, Executive Director of West Virginia CHIP.
“When I see a patient who has CHIP dental coverage, I am able to give them the care they need without worrying about financial constraints. That means I’m able to provide the best possible care no matter the family’s circumstances,” said Dr. Kim Lough, a pediatric dentist at Just for Kids Dentistry. “I’ve personally seen friends benefit from this safety-net, as they immediately became eligible for CHIP coverage after losing their job. Their kids never had to miss an appointment. That’s exactly what this program is designed to do.”
The CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009 not only renewed CHIP, but it also strengthened and expanded the original law by: improving child-focused quality measures like data collection and the dissemination of health quality information, streamlining enrollment procedures, and improving state outreach practices to more easily reach and enroll youth. In West Virginia, the state Legislature took action after the reauthorization to strengthen the law by expanding dental and mental health benefits and increasing eligibility for vision coverage. Studies have shown that children enrolled in CHIP have demonstrated improvements in their ability to pay attention in class, school attendance, reading scores, and participation in school and childhood activities. If CHIP is not extended this year, 1.9 million children stand to completely lose their health care coverage.