Ohio senator predicts child insurance program’s approval

Sen. Sherrod Brown predicted the Senate will approve a compromise bill that will finance for the next five years a federal children’s health program that provides coverage to nearly 219,000 low-income children in Ohio.

Both the Senate and House will have to re-authorize the program, which expires at the end of this month, to prevent nine million children across the country from losing their health coverage.

“It will get through,” Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

The compromise on what is known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program was approved by the Senate Finance Committee. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the committee chairman, was among those lawmakers who created the program in 1997.

The insurance program benefits children from families that make too much for Medicaid but still need help.

At Dayton Children’s Hospital, about half of all patients are covered by either CHIP and Medicaid, which the Ohio measures together.

Jessica Saunders of the Center for Community Health and Advocacy at Dayton Children’s said the program helps working families at Children’s who would otherwise have a hard time paying for their child’s health care.

She said the program has typically been renewed in one- or two-year increments, meaning the hospitals have had to continually advocate for the program to stay funded. The five year extension that’s been proposed would help solve this, said Saunders.

“It brings stability and we’re not having to go continuously fight for it. We want to make sure our families have stability,” she said.

Brown and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio are both on the committee. Portman said “this agreement represents a positive step forward for Ohio families who rely on this important program. I look forward to examining all of the details, including the pay-for options, as the committee continues discussing the package.”

Under the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, the federal government provided states with more money to cushion the costs of the program. Politico.com reported that the compromise would keep the higher federal rate through 2019 and begin to scale it back.

Although the bill only extends the program for the next five years, Brown said “five years is a victory. You want to re-visit these things every four or five years.”

Details of the bill have not been released.

Washington Bureau Correspondent Jack Torry reported on this story.

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