RGV Business Journal

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to renew and expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a moved supported by Valley Congressmen.

The measure now needs Senate approval and has the backing of President-elect Barack Obama. who called for Senate passage so that it can be one of the first bills to be signed under his administration.

The legislation, which is based on two bills that President Bush vetoed during the last Congress, will renew the CHIP program through fiscal year 2013. It will protect the seven million children currently covered by CHIP from losing access to health care, and it will extend coverage to an additional four million low-income children who are eligible for CHIP but not yet enrolled.

Rep. Henry Cuellar was a co-author of the bill. He said CHIP is especially crucial in Texas, where 21.4 percent of all children have no health insurance - the worst rate of coverage in America today.

"Growing up as the son of migrant parents, I was among the millions of American children who had no health insurance," Congressman Cuellar said. "When someone in our family got sick, seeing a doctor simply wasn't an option."

He added, "I got lucky. Even without health insurance, I grew up into a healthy adult. But I could just as easily have ended up going untreated for a chronic disease or serious injury, and a lifetime of opportunities would have evaporated. It is unacceptable that 1.4 million Texas kids continue to bear that risk today."

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa also praised the passage of the CHIP reauthorization.

"Our region desperately needs the SCHIP funds in this bill, which would provide a measurable difference in the health of our families and economy," Hinojosa said. "It takes roughly $3.50 a day to cover a child through the Children's Health Insurance program. It's the most cost-effective way to cover our kids so that fewer taxpayer dollars go toward emergency room treatments-by far the most expensive way to care for a child's health."

Hinojosa also praised a key provision in the bill that would give states the option of covering legal immigrant children who have been in United States less than five years under SCHIP and Medicaid.

"These legal immigrant parents, many of whom reside in my district, pay taxes and serve in the armed forces," Hinojosa said. "It makes sense to cover their children sooner than a five-year waiting period in order to prevent critical health problems from going unchecked."