PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation is calling on their Capitol Hill colleagues to restore funding to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The program provides low-cost medical coverage to millions of kids nationwide.
Rhode Island’s funding for the program is set to run out next March if Congress does not renew it.
“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 David Cicilline, who led 88 of his colleagues in calling on Speaker Paul Ryan to bring a bill reauthorizing CHIP to the House floor.
“Across the country, almost 9 million children stand to lose coverage,” he continued. “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.”
The CHIP program currently covers 27,000 Rhode Island children and pregnant women for a total of $74.9 million. Officials said 80 percent of that comes from federal funding.
“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,” Sen. Jack Reed said. “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.”
The congressional delegation held a news conference Friday at Meeting Street, flanked by the students who go to school there.
“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,” Meeting Street President John M. Kelly said. “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.”
There is a bipartisan bill in the Senate to extend the program until 2022 but it has not been brought to the floor.
“This really ought to be easy,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said. “For 20 years that this bill has been law, it’s been bipartisan and we have never, ever failed to reauthorize it. Something about this congress, this leadership and this administration has prevented us from reauthorizing this bill.”
A spokesperson for the state said a significant number of people covered could instead be covered by Medicaid if the program is not renewed but CHIP matches more dollars, so losing it would have a serious impact on Rhode Island’s budget.
“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 Jim 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.”