I rise to express my support for the CHIP Reauthorization Act, and to urge my colleagues to improve CHIP and cover an additional 4.1 million kids.I voted to create this program in 1997, and I have watched with great satisfaction as the number of uninsured children in our country has dropped. Thanks to CHIP, my state can provide health insurance to about eleven thousand kids every month. As a result, these kids have every chance to do their best in school and live long, healthy, productive lives.This is a great achievement, but we have more work to do. South Dakota still has about eighteen thousand uninsured children. Half of these kids meet the income requirements for Medicaid and CHIP, but remain uninsured. With health insurance premiums doubling in the past eight years and unemployment on the rise, more families just can’t keep up.Fortunately, this bill helps these families when they need it most. It allows states to cover more kids, and provides bonus payments for focusing on low-income kids. I am especially pleased that the bill allows kids whose private insurance does not include dental coverage to enroll in the CHIP dental plan.I understand some of my colleagues object to allowing states to end the five year waiting period for covering legal immigrant children and pregnant women in Medicaid and CHIP. This debate is not about whether or not to provide coverage, but rather to end the five year wait these future citizens must endure. A sick child does not have five years to wait, and it is not in the spirit of our founding fathers to force legal immigrants to wait five years for services they desperately need. I would urge my colleagues to remember that, other than Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants.On a personal note, I am pleased to join in the debate on CHIP this year, as I missed much of the 2007 debate while recovering from my AVM. That experience taught me the infinite value of good health insurance and great health care, a lesson I hope we can all benefit from.
This bill, which is fully paid for over the reauthorization period, is exactly what low-income families need during this time of economic uncertainty.###For more information on Senator Tim Johnson visit his website at http://johnson.senate.gov. To contact Senator Johnson’s communications office via e-mail, write his Communications Director at Julianne_Fisher@Johnson.Senate.govor his Deputy Communications Director at Jeff_Gohringer@Johnson.senate.gov