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Release: SCHIP Passage Protects Most Vulnerable Children

The SCHIP reauthorization bill – H.R. 2 – passed the House Wednesday by a 289-139 vote. The legislation would increase the number of eligible children in the federal insurance program by more than 4 million to cover more than 11 million. Currently, 144,163 children are enrolled in the program in Virginia, including 10,655 in Fairfax County and 7,300 in Prince William County. The bill is fully funded by the federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

For more than a year, Congressman Gerry Connolly has cited the need to expand the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program, calling it one of his first priorities in Congress.  Today he had the opportunity to fulfill that pledge, casting his vote in favor of the bill after urging his colleagues to support the measure in an impassioned speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“As history has proven, no nation can truly consider itself great without providing for the well-being of its most vulnerable,” Connolly said on the House floor.  “The United States is the only developed nation in the world that does not provide health care for all of its children.  That is unconscionable.”

The SCHIP reauthorization bill – H.R. 2 – passed the House Wednesday by a 289-139 vote.  The legislation would increase the number of eligible children in the federal insurance program by more than 4 million to cover more than 11 million.  Currently, 144,163 children are enrolled in the program in Virginia, including 10,655 in Fairfax County and 7,300 in Prince William County.  The bill is fully funded by the federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“This vote is about values,” Connolly told his House colleagues.  “An uninsured child diagnosed with appendicitis is five times more likely to die due to lack of access to medical attention that a child who is insured.

Connolly said the number of at-risk children in Northern Virginia and across the nation will only continue to rise, given the ongoing economic crisis.  “When you factor in the skyrocketing costs of health care, coupled with the economic pinch being placed on people’s pocketbooks, today’s American families are being bled dry and countless children are being left without health care.”

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was created in 1997 to provide health care coverage for children from modest-income families that earn too little to afford health insurance for their children themselves but too much to qualify for Medicaid.  “This bill will give states the resources and incentives necessary to reach and cover millions of uninsured children who are currently eligible for, but not enrolled in, SCHIP and Medicaid,” Connolly said.

The bipartisan bill, which would reauthorize SCHIP until 2013, is supported by a wide array of organizations ranging from business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Business Roundtable, and the American Hospital Association to such groups as AARP and Families USA. 

Connolly said Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law after the expected passage of the bill in the Senate.  Similar legislation was vetoed twice by President Bush in the last Congress.

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