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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The failure of Congress and the state legislature to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program — or CHIP — has real consequences for children in this region.
“This is who CHIP covers,” said Sara Cameron of Strongtown, holding up a picture of her two sons. “This 8-year got his glasses a month ago, and CHIP helped with that … My 5-year old Austin is nearly asthmatic, and he has a problem breathing and with a cold it goes straight to his lungs.”
Along with over 180,000 Pennsylvania children whose working parents do not qualify for Medicaid, these boys are covered under the CHIP program.
They are hardly alone.
“About five years ago, I was pretty much dying from a serum sickness from a Penicillin allergy,” recalled 9-year old Collinson Burgwin of Highland Park.
Burgwin recounted his story at an event at Children’s Hospital on Thursday, celebrating both CHIP’s 25th anniversary and also calling on lawmakers to fund the program that expired Oct. 1.
“CHIP saved my life by it only costing $25,” Burgin said.
But this program that has helped 850,000 Pennsylvania kids since 2009 is at risk, warn children health advocates.
“Despite all the families touched by CHIP and the access to high quality health care it provides, this program will no longer exist unless Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly act,” added Teresa Miller, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services.
When the Republican Congress failed to renew funding, it got caught up in the ongoing dispute over funding the entire government.
Still, says Dr. Rachel Berger, president of the medical staff at Children’s, “Even in this almost toxic political environment, CHIP stands out as one of the few issues which is bipartisan.”
Whether that bi-partisan support saves the program in time is still up in the air.