CHARLESTON - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on Friday called securing funding for the future of the Children's Health Insurance Program a "moral imperative."
Speaking to a group of advocates during a rally at the Schoenbaum Center in Charleston, Rockefeller called the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, one of the most significant accomplishments of his political career.
"Quite simply, fully funding CHIP is a moral imperative," Rockefeller said. "This program is something I deeply, truly believe in, and I am as deeply proud of CHIP as anything I've done in my nearly 50 years in public service. That's why I will never stop fighting to make sure children across West Virginia get the care they rightfully need and deserve."
The senator said parents should not have to refuse their child needed medical care because of a lack of insurance, or the worry of high health care costs.
"Health care should be seen as a right, not a privilege. Period," Rockefeller said. "And nothing is more important than making sure children get the start they need in life. That was my goal when we set out to create CHIP in 1997. And it's the same today, as we approach a crucial debate about maintaining and strengthening this essential program."
Rockefeller was a lead author of the CHIP legislation in 1997 and pushed congressional efforts to keep the program going in 2006, 2007 and 2009. While CHIP is still the law of the land until 2019, funding for the program and key provisions are only viable through 2015. On Friday, Rockefeller gathered a group of people, including families that rely on CHIP, policy experts and advocates to rally support for efforts to secure CHIP funding for years to come.
Since CHIP was signed into law, more than 200,000 children have been covered in West Virginia; currently, 40,000 children in the state are covered by this program.
As part of legislation that the senator plans to introduce in Congress, Rockefeller will push to expand access to both dentists and mental health professionals for children.