I admit to diarying about this yesterday, where you can find additional background on this potential crisis, but there’s more news: Jay Rockefeller has issued a statement saying he’ll try his best to save CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in the final fight between the Senate and House versions of the bill. Harold Myerson of the Washington Post has also written up the controversy.

Rockefeller: Proposal to Repeal CHIP Is ‘Harmful’ and ‘Intolerable’
By Mike Lillis 11/4/09

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who last month salvaged the Children’s Health Insurance Program in the Senate’s health reform bill, just issued a statement condemning the House legislation for proposing to terminate the program.

“As health reform moves forward, we need to make sure children can keep their CHIP coverage and not be forced into untested private coverage,” Rockefeller said.

The Congressional Budget Office has been very clear that replacing CHIP with private health coverage will lead some children to lose their health coverage altogether, which is harmful and intolerable. Health care reform should improve the coverage children have – not take their coverage away.

I have spent my entire career working to protect children and other vulnerable populations, and will keep fighting to protect CHIP as health care reform goes to the Senate floor, and then moves to conference with the House of Representatives. We must do all we can to shield children from harm. Always.

The Post’s Harold Meyerson writes that the Senate bill,

. . . thanks to an amendment from West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller, provides better coverage to children [than the House bill]. Rockefeller’s amendment keeps the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides medical coverage to otherwise uninsured children from poor families, intact [until 2019]. The House bill eliminates CHIP, instead expanding the number of children covered by Medicaid. But children currently on CHIP whose families won’t qualify for Medicaid and who will have to buy insurance on the exchanges will get less coverage than they do now, though the cost to taxpayers will be higher.

Unlike seniors, of course, children – most particularly, children of non-affluent parents – have no clout whatsoever in the political process. That’s why 8.1 million of them go without insurance today, even though insuring children is cheaper than insuring any other age group, not to mention the surest investment the nation could make in its future. (We know a lot more about how to keep children healthy than we do, for instance, about how to improve our schools. For that matter, as education writers such as Richard Rothstein have pointed out, one proven way to better educational performance is to improve children’s access to health care.)

Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund not only prefers the Rockefeller version to the one before the House but would further like to plug the holes in CHIP that make children’s eligibility for the program subject to a crazy quilt of state rules. In 22 states, children in families with incomes beneath 300 percent of the poverty line are enrolled in CHIP; in other states, the cut-off is lower and more children are uninsured. "We need to end the unjust lottery of geography," Edelman says.

The cost of providing CHIP to all families up to 300% of poverty level would be $11 billion a year over ten years. Anyway, like the Washington Independent writer says,

Get out the popcorn. This saga is just getting started.

Hey, do more than watch. Contact Senator Rockefeller and tell him you 100% support his efforts to save CHIP.

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