Cicilline, RI Delegation Demands Congress Fund Health Insurance for Children

Friday, December 15, 2017

Providence, RI. – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today gathered to demand the Republican majority in Congress immediately reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Rhode Island’s congressional delegation stood with pediatricians and children’s advocates at Meeting Street, which supports kids who have a wide range of specialized health needs.

“The federally funded Children’s Health Insurance Program is responsible for covering tens of thousands of children and pregnant women in Rhode Island. It has helped our state become a national leader in ensuring that all of our children have access to high-quality affordable health care, and,” said Congressman Cicilline, who led 88 of his colleagues in calling on Speaker Ryan to bring a bill reauthorizing CHIP to the House floor.  “These Rhode Islanders could start losing their health care coverage as soon as March if Republicans in Congress continue to hold this reauthorization hostage. Across the country, almost 9 million children stand to lose coverage. Americans overwhelmingly want Congress to support health care for children and pregnant women through CHIP, and I urge Speaker Ryan to allow the House to take a vote on reauthorization immediately.”

“CHIP has been successful here in Rhode Island and the program’s benefits are clear: it helps kids with limited means see a doctor and get preventive care, including vaccinations,” said Senator Reed.  “In addition to positive health outcomes, studies show that programs like CHIP and RIte Care translate to educational and economic gains. Healthy kids have better school attendance and greater productivity when they grow up. When you add it all up, CHIP is a win for kids and a win for taxpayers and it should be reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

“There is no possible justification for putting the health insurance of tens of thousands of Rhode Island children and expectant mothers in jeopardy,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  “Any parent raising a child with special health needs has enough to worry about without fear of medical bills that they simply can’t pay.  CHIP has been a bipartisan success for decades, and yet Republicans in Congress are prioritizing approval of a plan to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires over reauthorizing health insurance for children who need it.”

“My colleagues across the aisle must set aside their partisan agenda and swiftly reauthorize CHIP to ensure the health care needs of 9 million children, including 36,000 Rhode Islanders, continue to be met,” said Congressman Langevin. “CHIP is a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents, and I cannot believe that Republicans would hold families across the country hostage in order to score political points. Our nation’s children are our most precious resource, and they deserve uninterrupted access to quality health care.”

Last year in Rhode Island, over 36,000 children and pregnant women enrolled in health insurance coverage through CHIP and Medicaid.  Nearly 9 million children across the country rely on CHIP for health insurance. 

“The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a pivotal long-term driver of the U.S. economy,” said Dr. Beth Lange, a pediatrician at Coastal Medical and past president of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  “When children are healthy, they can attend school to learn the skills they need to be successful in the future workforce, and parents of healthy children are able to go to work each day and contribute to our economy now.”

CHIP expired in September and some states anticipate exhausting funding as soon as next month.  State officials estimate Rhode Island will run out of funding in March.  Congress has set a December 22 deadline for passing a new government funding measure. 

“Meeting Street works with 5,000 children each year with more than two-thirds of our children from low income families that depend on programs like CHIP,” said John M. Kelly, President of Meeting Street.  “You cannot have healthy, productive adults and a healthy, thriving community if you don’t first invest in the health of our children.  Children’s health must be a priority for us all.”

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