Health Care

Brown, ACH Call for Renewal of CHIP Funding

BOARDMAN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown yesterday urged his colleagues in both houses of Congress to quickly renew funding of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which he says is both the “right thing to do” and “the smart thing to do.”

During a news conference at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, Brown, D-Ohio, was joined by two mothers whose children have benefited from the problem and support his legislation, the Protecting & Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015, also known as PRO-CHIP.

The program, frequently referred to as CHIP, was crafted in 1997 by U.S. Sens. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican, and he worked on companion legislation in the House of Representatives, Brown said. It’s aimed at assisting children whose parents work but their employers do not provide health insurance and they make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

From 1997 to 2012, the rate of uninsured children was cut in half from 14% to a low of 7% because of CHIP and other government programs, Brown’s office reported. Some 130,000 Ohio children rely on CHIP for health coverage, including 2,525 in Trumbull County, 2,217 in Mahoning County and 1,461 in Columbiana County.

Jessica Miller of Lisbon, who was as accompanied by her 4-year-old son, Peyton, and Ericka Flaherty of Youngstown, each shared how their children benefited from the program.

Peyton has suffered several medical problems since birth, including respiratory problems and recently was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, Miller said. Without CHIP, there is “no way” the family of five would have been able to afford his care, she said.

Flaherty, whose son, Chase, now age 3, was born at 27 weeks, spent “four months and a day” in the neonatal intensive care unit and was born with a brain bleed, chronic lung disease and a heart condition. “If we didn’t have [CHIP] we would be unable to give him the care he needs,” she lamented.

Brown recalled that, after he gave testimony on the Senate floor supporting the bill, a Senate page in his office from Greenford disclosed that she was a “CHIP kid” through age 4.

“It isn’t just the right thing for these families – it’s the smart thing,” Brown said. “They’re more likely to be successful. Studies show they do better in school because they’re less likely to be sick and miss school days.”

The program “works not only from a medical point of view but from an economic point of view,” said Dr. Rob McGregor, chief medical officer at Akron Children’s Hospital. Studies of children who were covered under CHIP, followed though age 28, show they had lower mortality rates, higher college attendance rates, lower dependence on government programs and higher earnings, he noted.

CHIP’s enabling legislation doesn’t expire until 2019 but its current funding ends in September. Congress needs to act soon because states, which administer the CHIP funds, are preparing their budgets in the coming weeks, Brown said. Support for the program typically has been bipartisan but this year funding is being opposed by “tea party Republicans,” he said.

“They don’t think there should be any government role here,” although some Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich, “generally support” the program, he said. “I’ve spoken to a number of Republicans to make this work and we need to keep it bipartisan,” he continued. “The tea party has just been wrong on this.”

PICTURED: Jessica Miller and her son, Peyton, joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for Monday’s press event at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.