A bill to provide the Virgin Islands and the other U.S. territories with full funding under the Children Health Insurance Program overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives Friday.
Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen said the legislation passed as part of a larger bill to restore some of the cuts in Medicare reimbursement to health care providers imposed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.
"My colleagues from the other Territories and I can breathe a sigh of relief because today's action means that we are half way home in our over two-year fight to remedy an injustice that was done to us with regard to funding under the CHIP program", Christensen said.
Congress took away some CHIP funding for the territories when it was working to pass the Balanced Budget Act. It sought savings to offset the new spending that was to come from President Clinton's then-new program to provide health insurance for children whose parents couldn't qualify for Medicaid, but also couldn't afford to buy private insurance.
Since then, both the White House and all of the territorial Delegates have been fighting to have the cuts restored, Christensen said.
"At long last it appears as if we will finally succeed," she said.
The bill, H.R. 3075, would also undo another result of the Balanced Budget Act, which caused nursing homes and home health care agencies across the country, such as Sea View on St. Thomas and Mentor Services on St. Croix, to deny services to many Medicare patients. The side effect has caused such health care providers to "teeter on the brink of going out of business" because of larger cuts than Congress had originally intended, Christensen said.
"This is bill is also welcome news because it should enable our hospitals and other providers of services to the elderly in our community to be able to continue to do so," she said.