SCHIP Bill Beneficial on Several Fronts (Rep. Chris Van Hollen)

The CHIP Reauthorization Act will reauthorize and improve the very successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. This bipartisan bill will preserve coverage for the 6 million children currently enrolled who otherwise would have no access to health insurance while, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), extending coverage to 3.8 million children who are not enrolled in the program. By reauthorizing this very important program, we will strengthen CHIP’s financing, improve the quality of health care children receive, and increase health insurance coverage for low-income children.

I am pleased that this bill maintains the guaranteed dental coverage and mental health parity provisions that were in the CHAMP Act. Good oral health care is important to the overall health of children. No family should have to suffer the loss of a child because they lack access to care, as happened in the tragic case of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Marylander who died earlier this year when an infection from an untreated abscessed tooth spread to his brain.

This legislation increases the tobacco tax by 61 cents to a total of one dollar. Increasing the tobacco tax will save billions in health costs and is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among young children. The 2000 U.S. Surgeon General’s report found that increasing the price of tobacco products will decrease the prevalence of tobacco use, particularly among kids and young adults. In short, raising the tobacco tax will prevent thousands of children from starting to smoke and the proceeds of the tax will be used to provide health coverage for children. That is a win-win result.

The President has said that he will veto this bipartisan bill. Not so long ago, in a September 2004 speech, he promised to expand coverage of CHIP to include eligible children who are not yet enrolled in the program. Now the President has reversed course. In his July 2007 speech in Cleveland, Ohio, he forgot his 2004 pledge and stated, “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.