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Brown: Congress needs to 'put aside politics' and re-authorize CHIP program



In a visit to the Virginia Garcia Wellness Center on Tuesday in Cornelius, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for congress to re-authorize the Child Health Insurance Program — funding Virginia Garcia officials say is crucial to the services they provide.

Following a tour of the clinic, Brown spoke to a collection of clinic staff members with two beneficiaries of CHIP funding — Diego and his mother, Martha — at her side.

"Congress has the opportunity to come together, put aside politics and fund the CHIP program to make sure that our most vulnerable children have the health care they need," she said. "Unfortunately, right now congress is focused on some other things including tax breaks for the wealthy and the well-connected, but I'd like to say that, here in Oregon, we're focused on the people not the powerful."

CHIP dollars help bridge a gap in funding, assisting Virginia Garcia to treat underinsured or uninsured children. The program is used across Virginia Garcia's network of clinics in Yamhill and Washington counties, including six school-based health clinics.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici visited a clinic based at Hillsboro's Century High School in October. Bonamici and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden have both voiced support of the CHIP program.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the bill in November. A spokesperson for Wyden said CHIP funding could be included in an end-of-year funding package.

Bonamici slammed fellow lawmakers after the vote.

"Rather than work toward a compromise that has a chance of becoming law, the Majority in the House has instead pushed this through by cutting one important public health program to fund another," she said in a Nov. 3 statement.

Oregon will use funds from Medicaid to supplement the CHIP program through April, Brown said, with the goal of providing access to health care for all kids in Oregon.

Brown said she wants to see action toward passing a bill in the senate.

"I understand that there's bipartisan support and I will tell you the governors I've spoken to, both republican and democrat, believe strongly that the chip program needs to get funded," she said. "Let's make it happen and let's do it before the holidays."

Brown's visit included comments from Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center CEO Gil Muñoz and Dr. Lyn Jacobs, a family medicine doctor at the Cornelius clinic.

"The kids that I see, without insurance, can't get the medications they need to control their asthma; to get their evaluation that they need to figure out why they're having seizures," she said. "Kids that are sick can't stay in school. If they can't stay in school, they can't graduate and they're our future."

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