The CHIP Program is Critical to Meeting the Health Needs of Low-Income Children
By U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
The United States is the richest nation in the world and because of that we have the resources to provide all Americans with access to quality health care, particularly children. I am pleased that the Senate recently passed an expansion of the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP), one of the most important programs in this nation to help provide health care to low-income children.
Currently, approximately 6.6 million low-income children receive their health care through the CHIP. The Senate bill would expand coverage to an additional 3.2 million children nationwide. It also would provide substantially more funds for the Maryland Childrens Health Insurance Program (MCHIP). This increase in funding would allow Maryland to fully fund the 101,000 children currently enrolled in MCHIP and expand coverage to as many of 42,000 currently uninsured children.
The bipartisan Senate bill would reauthorize the CHIP program at $35 billion for five years. It would provide $200 million in new grants for states to improve accessibility and strengthen dental coverage for children. It also would provide $100 million in new grants to states for outreach and enrollment efforts to reach more children eligible for CHIP and Medicaid.
Earlier this year, this year we all heard about the tragic death 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, who lived in Prince Georges County. In the wake of the tragedy, I co-sponsored the Childrens Dental Health Improvement Act (S. 739) to improve access to and delivery of dental care to uninsured children.
In addition to providing grants to states to improve dental coverage for children, this bill also permits states to use dental funds to provide enhanced dental coverage to CHIP-enrolled children. The Senate bill also would improve access to mental health services and it would allocate $49 million for a demonstration project to streamline the enrollment process for low-income children already eligible for coverage.
As with the current Childrens Health Insurance Program, the Senate bill is paid for by increasing the tax already imposed on tobacco products. Specifically, the measure creates new revenue from a 61-cent increase in the excise tax on cigarettes, as well as a proportional increase on all other tobacco products.
Our nations children are our future and to we need to make sure they are in good health. No child in this country should lose their life because of tooth decay, and no child in this great nation should go without health care. This bill will help ensure they have the health care they need and deserve.