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Now is the Time to Broaden Children’s Health Coverage

Jill Garvey • Jan 27, 2009

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is an investment in the future health of America.

Increased funding to SCHIP has twice been vetoed by former President Bush (boy do I love saying former). And now that he is gone, it is being pushed with some urgency for approval from the Senate. SCHIP is a federal program that provides funding to States to give health care coverage to children who are not eligible for Medicaid, but whose families cannot afford private insurance.

By design it is supposed to fill in the cracks where uninsured children fall. With 10 million children still under- or uninsured in the U.S., the renewal and expansion of the program will address its current shortfalls. It is bad enough that many adults in the US must choose between paying for medical care and other necessities like food or shelter. It’s tragic when a parent must make that kind of decision about a sick child.

As of now documented children of immigrants face a five year waiting period before they can enroll for assistance from SCHIP. An amendment would allow states to waive the five-year waiting period for documented immigrants seeking public health care if they are pregnant women and children.

The passage of SCHIP brings us a little bit closer to a nation that takes care of its children regardless of where their parents come from or how much money they have. It doesn’t go far enough, but it is a start.

Opposition to the expanded bill include Republicans who say it allows families to access public health care who should be able to afford private insurance. Essentially they want to cut the middle class out of the program. With record job losses and economic woes mounting, middle class families need more help with things like health insurance, not less.

More insidious are anti-immigrant groups who oppose the bill because they don’t want the children of immigrants to receive health care, even in cases where the children and their parents are residing in the US legally.

This illustrates once again that their war on immigrants is not based on legality or documentation, but an attempt to diminish the quality of life for those they deem different - culturally, ethnically, racially.

Poll after poll show that protecting children without prejudice is the will of the American people. Contact your Senators and urge them to pass the SCHIP bill. Children need health care coverage and they need it now.

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