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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey stopped by Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh on Monday to meet the kids and make a special pitch for renewing CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“It’s essential that this bill pass this week,” says Casey.

It was Casey’s father, the late Gov. Bob Casey, who signed the first state CHIP bill in 1992 that was the model for the federal CHIP bill signed by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

The program to provide health insurance to children of middle income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid has enjoyed bi-partisan support over the years.

But Casey blames Republican leaders for not scheduling a vote in Congress to renew the program.

“While they’re obsessing over getting a big tax bill for corporations and the super-rich, they’re delaying action on children’s health insurance,” he says.

About 180,000 Pennsylvania children stand to lose their health insurance if the Republican Congress doesn’t act, and Casey says it makes no sense to put parents through this agony during Christmas time.

“Why should anybody spend even five minutes of the holidays worrying about whether or not their child who’s been enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program is still enrolled?” he said.

Casey says the money for this program – which covers nine million American kids nationwide – is there, so it’s just a matter of renewing the federal program.

On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the state CHIP program’s renewal, but Casey says 90 percent of the funds come from the federal government.

“I would just urge people to call Washington and say, get the Kids Act done. That’s literally the name of the bill that came out of the Finance Committee,” Casey said.