In a conference call Wednesday with invited reporters, Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator is making his case early for an extension of the Children’s Health Improvement Program [CHIP] that expires in September if Congress, now under the control of Republicans, fails to renew the program started in 1997 that targets help to low- and moderate-income children and pregnant women not covered by Medicaid.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced a plan that would extend funding for the current program through 2019. “Providing health insurance to low-income children isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” Brown told reporters on the call. “CHIP provides more than 130,000 Ohio children the ability to grow into healthy adults through affordable health insurance,” he said, noting that as states begin the process of budgeting for the next fiscal year, they need the financial certainty that federal funds will be there to help fund this crucial program. “If Congress doesn’t act, Ohio stands to lose up to $146 million in federal funds in 2016 alone. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass a funding extension for this program immediately.”

A joint state-federal health insurance program, CHIP provides many millions with access to health insurance. Brown’s office said CHIP provides access to comprehensive, affordable coverage to more than eight million children, including more than 130,000 Ohioans. Sen. Brown will be the lead sponsor of legislation to extend funding for CHIP and released a county-by-county snapshot of the number of Ohio children who rely on CHIP for health coverage. In Franklin County, home to Columbus, the state capital, more than 13,229 children depend on CHIP for healthcare coverage. Ohio received $376 million in federal match dollars in 2013 to help fund CHIP in-state, which covers nearly 75 percent of the state’s expenditures for children between 156 and 206 percent of the federal poverty level. Thirty-nine governors, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, sent letters last year to Congressional representatives urging swift action to extend the current program.

Sen. Brown warned that the need for prompt federal action is crucial as states begin the process of constructing their annual budgets. “If Congress doesn’t act swiftly to extend funding, Ohio could lose out on up to an estimated $146 million in federal funds in 2016 alone,” he said. Now a member of the important Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Brown introduced an amendment during today’s committee session to the “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015” that would extend CHIP funding for four years.

New Children’s Defense Fund Report:

In separate but related news, The Children’s Defense Fund [CDF] released a new report that for the first time details how to substantially reduce child poverty in America. Called “Ending Child Poverty Now,” it argues that by investing an additional 2 percent of the budget to expand existing federal programs and policies to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met, 60 percent of poor children across the country would be lifted out of poverty and 97 percent of all poor children would benefit.

Renuka Mayadev, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, said, “Poverty hurts children and Ohio’s future. It’s a moral disgrace that almost 1 out of every 4 Ohio children is poor. What this new report clearly shows is it doesn’t have to be this way. We have programs and policies that work, we have the resources to expand them, we need to build the public will to do it now.”

CDF targeted changes in nine existing programs and policies and contracted with the non-partisan, independent Urban Institute to analyze the cost and impact of the improvements. The Urban Institute’s technical report estimated a cost of $77.2 billion per year for the combined policy improvements. CDF found multiple trade-offs the country could make to pay for this significant reduction in child poverty, including:

  • Closing tax loopholes that let U.S. corporations avoid $90 billion in federal income taxes each year by shifting profits to subsidiaries in tax havens; or
  • Eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy by taxing capital gains and dividends at the same rate as wages, saving more than $84 billion a year; or
  • Scrapping the F-35 fighter jet program which is several years behind schedule and 68 percent over budget and still not producing fully functioning planes. For the $1.5 trillion projected costs of this program, the nation could reduce child poverty by 60 percent for 19 years, potentially breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

A nationally recognized champion for improving children’s health in Ohio, Sen. Brown’s bill last year to fight the rise in infant mortality was signed into law by President Obama.