CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia has the nation's fourth-lowest rate of low-income children without health insurance, largely because of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. and his support of the Children's Home Insurance Program.
Monday marks the fourth anniversary of the Congressional reauthorization of CHIP in 2009, when Rockefeller was a leader in the fight to maintain the program.
CHIP provides health insurance to 40,000 children in West Virginia and 8 million children nationally. Back in 1997, Congress created the landmark program, passing legislation written by Rockefeller.
"Health care is a right, not a privilege, and is essential for giving kids a strong start and fair shot in life," Rockefeller said. "That's why championing CHIP is one of my proudest fights in nearly 50 years of public service."
Today, West Virginia has the nation's fourth-lowest rate of low-income children without health insurance, largely because of CHIP.
Together, CHIP and Medicaid provide access to health care for more than 200,000 children in West Virginia and 42 million children in the country.
"CHIP was designed to fill a devastating gap in coverage for children who weren't poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid but still were unable to afford or have access to any health insurance," Rockefeller said.
"Imagine how hard it must be for a mother or father to decide to wait just one more day in the hopes that a sick child's frightening symptoms will disappear, only to see them worsen in the middle of the night.
"Without quality coverage, they're stuck with no way out. Today, because of CHIP, millions of families no longer have to face that harsh reality."
The CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009 financed new initiatives to improve children's health and made enrollment procedures easier. The West Virginia Legislature helped CHIP expand dental, mental health and eye-care coverage for children.
Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginia for Affordable Health Care, said, "This is an example of how Sen. Rockefeller has fought for the lives of West Virginia families.
"His efforts included: protecting health benefits for coal miners' widows in 1992, establishing and defending the CHIP program and moving us toward health care for every West Virginian with the Affordable Health Care Act. All three are gigantic accomplishments."
Renate Pore, a health policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said CHIP "has been a great program in West Virginia. It is government program that everybody loves.
"A few years ago, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources did a survey about what people thought about CHIP. They said it was the most popular government program West Virginia has ever had.