Mr. President, thank you very much for the recognition and I come to the floor today to speak about business that is important to Kansas and important to the country. But especially important to the providers of healthcare for children and the children and their families who receive that coverage and care.
And that’s the Medicaid CHIP program.
It was established back in 1997 and I want to call to the attention of my colleagues the importance of us acting here in the next several days in regard to reauthorization extension of that CHIP program. It has helped to provide coverage to children of low income families in my state and those are individuals who would otherwise be left without any insurance, and most likely in every case, the funds necessary to cover health care costs for the well-being of those young men and women.
This program is funded through a multi-year authorization that requires Congress to take action each time the program reaches the end of that authorization and that end of that authorization occurred on September 30th, now several months ago.
While I have been assured in my state that there is sufficient funds to get us through the end of the year, I get concerned; in fact, the belief is that we may have enough funds to pay for our insurance program to March. That certainly is probably not the case across the states and we need to respond, we need to act, within a few short days.
Certainly, I hope this is an issue that is addressed as the continuing resolution that funds the federal government expires on December the 22nd. As we respond to that circumstance, we ought to respond to the expiration of the CHIP program that occurred on September the 30th. Waiting to reauthorize that program already has created, but if we waited any longer, it would create even more unnecessary burden for families of more than nine million children that are currently receiving healthcare through that program.
Temporary funding measures have kept the program solvent since the program expired, but again, now is the time to act to provide some certainty and to make sure that the funds continue to be available. In Kansas, in the absence of that, that would be leaving about 79,000 children without coverage or other good options.
Many of our nation's best children's hospitals serve a great deal of patients through that CHIP program. We are fortunate in our area to have Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and again, those hospitals and other providers rely upon that CHIP program to pay their bills as well. With all the costs associated with healthcare and with the inability of people to pay, the burden then falls upon hospitals and others to figure out how they survive.
I will tell you that in Kansas almost every hospital, 127 of them in our state, continue to hang on by a thread and some may not survive. This is another opportunity for us to strengthen and provide certainty that a mechanism will be in place that when they provide care to children of Medicaid families that they will be reimbursed. That benefits all of us in our healthcare delivery system and provides more stability and more certainty in these challenging times for healthcare providers across Kansas.
The House of Representatives, and I’m happy that this occurred, has passed reauthorization. They did their bill. It is now time for the Senate to act. Our committee, the Finance Committee, has taken its actions but this bill is still pending on the floor of the United States Senate.
This Christmas season, this holiday time, parents should not have to wonder what they will do in the absence of this insurance program that allows their children to receive routine care, but in many instances, life-saving care. Continuing to delay action on this bill is not in the best interest of the American people. It would be nice, it would be appreciated by Americans, to see the United States Senate work on a program that has broad bipartisan support but still, for some reason, can’t get across the finish line. That finish line I suppose was September the 30th but I say that finish line is now, the end of the year, and specifically December the 22nd with the CR expiring, at that point in time, it's time for congress to take action in that regard.
My plea on the Senate floor this morning is for congress—the United States Senate—to take legislative action, reauthorize this program, provide certainty, and care for our country’s children—who are without this program in very significant jeopardy of having absence of healthcare.
Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to address the United States Senate and I yield back after noting the absence of a quorum.