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Retiring Rockefeller promotes child health initiative

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — In one of his last acts as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Health Care, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Wednesday urged lawmakers to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program which will expire next year.

Rockefeller spoke Wednesday morning before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee Hearing. Without an extension, C.H.I.P. funding will lapse on Sept. 30.

Eight million children and pregnant women nationwide and nearly 40,000 in West Virginia rely on C.H.I.P. for their health care coverage, Rockefeller said.

“C.H.I.P.’s success has played an essential role in cutting the number of uninsured children in half over the past 15 years,” he said. “This kind of progress is something we should celebrate. But, we must continue to invest in C.H.I.P. so that we can celebrate many more of the program’s milestones.”

In 1997, Rockefeller helped draft the legislation that created the insurance program, which provides high-quality, cost-effective health care for children and pregnant women through state-run health insurance programs. Rockefeller also led the reauthorization of the law in 2009, and has worked this Congress to help extend the program through 2019, consistent with current requirements that the law continue through 2019.

“Without congressional action, C.H.I.P. will run out of funding next fall, placing at risk the well-being of millions of children and pregnant women,” he said. “I hope that the members of this committee will not let that happen.”

Rockefeller warned states are unprepared to fill the funding gap if the program no longer is paid for through the federal government and states and communities will find increased expense and hardship if those health benefits suddenly end for pregnant women and young children.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., echoed Rockefeller’s words.

“We have a responsibility to make sure our kids have the best available start in life, and that includes making sure that they have access to health care coverage,” Manchin said in an emailed statement. “The Children’s Health Insurance Program is vital to upholding that responsibility, especially for those children whose families fall in the gap between not being eligible for Medicaid but also not being able to afford quality health insurance.

“I cannot thank Sen. Rockefeller enough for his leadership on this program’s success, which has cut the percentage of uninsured children in half in just 15 years,” Manchin said. “As we enter the 114th Congress, I am fully committed to making sure federal funding of C.H.I.P. is reauthorized before it expires next year so that the more than 37,000 low income children in West Virginia will continue to receive the medical and dental care they deserve.”

Rockefeller, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of this year, is scheduled to give a final farewell address at 3 p.m. today on the floor of the Senate.

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