Rockefeller visits community health center

August 09, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION


The meeting started with a discussion about the Children's Health Insurance Program, but it turned into a debate about everything that is wrong with health care.

And the country.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller visited the Shenandoah Community Health Center on Tavern Road Thursday afternoon to talk about the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which the Democratic congressman helped put together in 1997 to give health care to low-income children.

The program - also known as CHIP - will expire Sept. 30, and Rockefeller and other supporters are fighting to save the program at a time when President Bush has been working to derail it, Rockefeller has said.


The U.S. Senate last week passed legislation to reauthorize CHIP at a cost of $35 million, and the bill will ensure that 39,000 West Virginia children will continue to be covered, according to Rockefeller's office.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a different version of CHIP and it will be up to a joint Senate-House committee to work out a compromise, according to Rockefeller.

Rockefeller met with about 25 doctors, nurses and other community members at the health center to drum up support for the CHIP reauthorization and listen to their concerns about health care for children.

The conversation was laced with disdain over the state of health care in the United States.

Becki Showalter, a nurse at the clinic, said there are other programs similar to CHIP and it is confusing to parents in deciding where to turn for health care for their children.

Rockefeller acknowledged the problem and said many parents simply don't deal with children's health insurance programs. In many cases, parents don't deal with the plans since they did not have health insurance when they were growing up, Rockefeller said.

David Didden, a doctor at the clinic, said reauthorization of CHIP would only be a "Band-Aid" to health-care coverage for children.

Didden related health-care struggles faced by people and the rest of the group and Rockefeller strayed-off into other issues, like the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the country.

"Our country is eroding from the very bottom," said Didden, who said the answer to the county's health-care woes is universal coverage.

"The empire is crumbling," Didden said.

"I understand what you are saying," Rockefeller said.

To ensure every young person has adequate health care, Rockefeller said he has proposed that every child have Medicaid until they finish college.

Then, the person can go out and find coverage, Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller said his idea never goes anywhere.

"It's considered a radical idea," Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller went on to say that proper health care is "the world's largest problem other than global climate change. And we're not doing anything about it."

Work on a compromise CHIP proposal will probably begin this month, said Wendy Morigi, Rockefeller's communications director.

The Senate bill would expand CHIP coverage to at least 4,000 children in West Virginia in addition to the 39,000 already served, Rockefeller said.

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