Gov. Kate Brown visited Pacific Pediatrics in Woodburn on Dec. 21 to speak in support of the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to more than 800,000 Oregonians and 9 million people nationwide. Federal funding for the program expired in September.
Brown said 1 in 10 children in Oregon benefits from the program, and if funding doesn't come through, Oregon's families would suffer.
"I believe strongly that particularly right now, our congressional leaders have an opportunity to unite, put aside political gamesmanship and fund the CHIP program," Brown said. "Unfortunately right now, Congress is focused on tax breaks for the wealthy and well-connected."
The program, which has bipartisan support, provides health care coverage to children and pregnant mothers who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for other health insurance.
Congress passed a stopgap bill on Dec. 21 which, among other provisions, extends funding for CHIP through March 2018.
But Brown said that any plans for temporary funding aren't an adequate solution for Oregonians.
"You know, that is not very helpful for these families," Brown said. "These families are already struggling financially and this level of anxiety exacerbates current health conditions. It's absolutely critical that Congress gets off their rear ends, gets off their duffs, and funds the CHIP program. And they need to do it now."
Brown said Oregon's more rural and smaller communities would see a greater impact if CHIP funding were to go away.
That impact could extend to Woodburn residents like Haley Kramer, a mother whose 7-month-old son, Nelson Brown, receives his health care through CHIP. Kramer, a full-time student at Lewis & Clark College, said CHIP allows her to not worry about whether Nelson will be able to receive the regular check-ups he needs.
"We'd have to make a lot of adjustments," Kramer said of the possibility of CHIP being cut. "I'm a full-time student, so I have zero income as far as that, and his dad works construction, so it's very minimal income there, as well."
Kramer said that if CHIP were cut, she'd put Nelson's health first. That could mean quitting school, she said, and finding work.
"He comes first," she said of her son. "That's really the main thing."
More than anything, she said the program means she doesn't have to stress about her child's health care.
"This kind of gives us peace of mind that he's going to be healthy and seen by a doctor," Kramer said. "It's one less thing to worry about."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.