Laura Gilliam: Congress must act to restore children's health program

Federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Plan, known as CHIP, expired on Sept. 30 and Congress has yet to reauthorize it. It's unlikely that the millions of working families whose children depend on CHIP for essential health services feel a similar lack of urgency.

Latest enrollment numbers show that 21,312 West Virginia children receive health care coverage through CHIP, including 53 percent of the children living in the Third Congressional District. Historically, CHIP has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but action to reauthorize funding has been sluggish. The current lapse in federal support is unprecedented in CHIP's 20-year history.

The Children's Health Insurance Program was enacted in 1997 to provide funding to states to reduce the numbers of uninsured children in the United States. CHIP helps low-income children from working families who do not have access to employer-based coverage, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Before its enactment, over 23 percent of low-income children were uninsured. Today 5 percent of children remain uninsured nationally and only 3 percent of West Virginia children are uninsured.

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