Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi

Feinstein and Pelosi Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Vaccines for Low-Income Children

September 29, 1999

Washington, D.C. -- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation today to expand access to childhood vaccines that will help to immunize more than a half-million California children.

"Every parent knows that vaccinations are fundamental to a lifetime of good health for their children," Senator Feinstein said. "This bill corrects a technicality that keeps more than half a million California children from getting immunized. The bottom line is that this legislation will help improve the health of all of our children."

"Vaccines are among the most cost effective prevention interventions we have," Representative Pelosi said. "All children should have access to recommended vaccines, and all states should benefit from federal vaccine programs."

Fifty-two members of the House joined Pelosi as original cosponsors of the legislation. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program supplies federally purchased vaccines to provide free immunizations to low-income children.

Due to a technicality in the law, millions of low-income children in California and 27 other states have lost the VFC free immunization benefit. Program eligibility is defined as being uninsured, on Medicaid, or of American Indian or Alaskan heritage.

The states in question have chosen to administer their Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) through new, non-Medicaid programs. Since the Health Care Financing Administration interprets these new programs as private health insurance, children enrolled in these CHIP programs have been prohibited from receiving VFC coverage.

The Feinstein-Pelosi legislation clarifies federal law to ensure that all children in state CHIP programs can receive free immunizations through VFC. The California Medical Association has estimated that denial of VFC to California CHIP enrollees costs the state $18 million annually.

"Vaccines for Children and CHIP were both major legislative victories in improving health care for low-income children," Rep. Pelosi said. "Congress must now correct a technicality in the law to enable these two programs to work together for maximum effectiveness."

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