(Washington, D.C.) – Last night (8/2), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped the Senate pass a bill that will strengthen and expand the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides insurance for more than 11,000 Washington state children whose parents would otherwise be unable to afford coverage for them. 

On Wednesday, August 1st, Senator Murray spoke on the Senate floor in favor of passing the bill

The CHIP reauthorization plan, which would increase funding and expand the Washington state allotment to allow more Washington state children to be covered, passed the Senate 68-31. Passing an SCHIP reauthorization has been a top priority of the Democratic majority. Senator Murray is the fourth-ranking member of the Democratic leadership. 

"Since the Children's Health Insurance Program was enacted ten years ago, thousands of Washington state children - whose families could not afford the cost of providing health care - have been given the care they need," said Senator Murray. "Today, as healthcare, housing, and insurance costs rise, it is more important then ever that we extend and expand this program that promises children a healthy start. I am very pleased that the Senate passed this strong bill, which will allow more Washington state children get healthcare."

The CHIP reauthorization bill approved last night will expand care in Washington state by:

  • Providing an overall national increase in funding of $35 billion - This will increase the overall allotment available to Washington state to $94,195,503 for 2008. 
  • Allowing Washington state to utilize the full amount of funding it is allotted - In 1994, Washington state expanded Medicaid to cover children up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), three years ahead of the CHIP enactment. As a result, Washington has never been able to access their full CHIP allotment.  In fact, due to the significantly lower Medicaid match, Washington state has been penalized for their efforts.  This reauthorization will allow Washington to use previously unspent portions of our allotment to recruit more children to CHIP, and improve the overall health of low-income children in our state.
  • Allowing the state to expand coverage to up to 300% of the federal poverty level in 2009.
  • Increasing funding for administrative costs including outreach which will allow the state to finds children who have fallen through the cracks and are currently uninsured.

"This reauthorization plan provides Washington state with the funding and flexibility to provide more children with quality health care," added Murray. "This is a big win for our state and the many families that struggle to provide care for their kids."

The bill is paid for by levying a 61-cent-a-pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.  President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation.