Kaine says local families will struggle without healthcare program for children

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — According to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-va.), the clock is ticking for Congress to come up with a plan to save healthcare for thousands of children in Virginia. Without it, Kaine says local families will struggle.

Kaine delivered a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, urging Congress to move quickly on this — like today. He’s asking Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program — or CHIP — for thousands of pregnant mothers and children in Virginia.

More than 9 million children across the country rely on the program. It provides low-cost health care for children whose parents are low-income or middle class who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid.

But it expired in September. Kaine says this is putting the healthcare of children in jeopardy. That includes 5,000 children who live in Hampton Roads.

Virginia’s program, which covers 66,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women, is set to run out of funding on Jan. 31 if Congress fails to reauthorize the program.

Families in Virginia rely on CHIP to cover doctor visits, hospital care, prescription medicines, eyeglasses, immunizations, and regular check-ups for kids up to 19 years old — with minimal cost sharing and without premiums, according to Kaine.

Last week, Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asking him to bring bipartisan legislation up for a vote to quickly reauthorize the program.

“If we can bring this to the floor, then I think we could get it passed,” Kaine said in his speech. “It’s an urgent issue for children across the country.”

Most states have leftover CHIP funds, including Virginia. Kaine says he wants to extend the program for five years. If that doesn’t happen and you are using the CHIP program, expect a notice in the mail before Christmas.