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Sen. Brown: Congress Needs To Save Children's Health Coverage

Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Sherrod Brown is expressing frustration at the lack of movement on funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The program, which covers 9 million children nationwide, is reauthorized through 2019 but funding for it expired in September.

Brown says approving the funding needs to be a top priority for Congress.

"It should be done. I don't care how we do it,” Brown says. “There's five different ways, but the easiest is just to move the bill to the floor. Get an agreed-upon bill and move it to the floor in both houses and do it this week."

CHIP helps lower- and middle-income families that otherwise earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, as well as thousands of pregnant women. Though it has broad bipartisan support, CHIP funding lapsed on Sept. 30 while lawmakers were busy with Affordable Care Act repeal bills.

"These are families often that have two working parents," Brown says. "They aren’t lucky enough to work for companies that offer good health coverage for their entire family, or they’re families with children who have special needs. CHIP helps provide access to specialty providers so said kids are never faced with a situation -- or their parents are never faced with a situation, where they can’t afford the therapy or prescription drugs that they need."

Ohio is among the states that will run out of money for CHIP by the end of the year if the federal government does not act. In Ohio, CHIP-eligible children are covered through Medicaid, and the state says that means their insurance will continue but at the lower Medicaid match rate instead of the much higher match rate of CHIP.

Democrats say the latest proposal to save CHIP takes too much money out of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to offset costs.

"Take our bill and move it through the House, or come up with another way to do it that doesn't pit kids against seniors,” Brown says.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.