By Elise Viebeck - 07/31/14 07:04 PM EDT
Top House Democrats proposed legislation Thursday to prevent the expiration of healthcare coverage for 8 million children next year, when funding for a popular government program will expire unless lawmakers act.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) are proposing to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for four years.
The program is authorized through 2019, but its funding is set to expire on Oct. 1, 2015, unless Congress intervenes. Advocates have warned that letting the deadline slip would be devastating for children around the country.
"CHIP is a bipartisan program that works for children," said James M. Perrin, president of the Academy of Pediatrics, in a statement.
"[The program] offers what many plans in the private marketplace may not yet provide: benefits specifically designed for children … and networks of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) already introduced a Senate bill that would extend CHIP funding through 2019 and provide incentives for states to expand kids' coverage.