May 11, 2007

Commentary:

On Mother’s Day Top Health Care A Priority of Congress this Year

By Bob Filner
Congressman

The best way to honor mothers this Mother’s Day is to work to expand health care coverage for America’s children. I am proud that the top health care priority of this new Congress is to dramatically reduce the number of children in America who have no health insurance.

America’s mothers know how critical health care is for our children. Mothers know that a child who is seeing a doctor regularly for check-ups, getting their immunizations, and having their childhood illnesses such as earaches and sore throats immediately treated will learn better in school and grow up to be healthier.

Insuring a child is not only the right thing to do, it is also a smart investment for our society to make, because the money spent on insuring a child saves multiple times that in the long run - as that child grows up to be a healthier, more productive adult.

Today, there are 9 million American children without health insurance. In a country as wealthy as ours, that is a national disgrace.

This disturbing statistic would be worse if it were not for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

This year, the new Congress will reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Congressional Leaders have vowed to substantially strengthen the program so that many more children are covered.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program - or “SCHIP” — was established by Congress in 1997 to expand health care coverage for children. It provides matching funds to states to help them provide health care coverage for children living in families that are earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. Since it was created in 1997, SCHIP has been a successful, cost-effective program. Currently, more than 6 million children are enrolled in SCHIP.

After SCHIP was created, the number of children without health insurance began to fall every year, and yet, this past year, for the first time since 1998, the number of uninsured children actually went up. This highlights the growing number of families without access to affordable health insurance and the need for Congress to strengthen SCHIP this year.

Studies show us that it makes an enormous difference for a child’s health whether or not they have health care coverage. We know that children who have health insurance are better prepared to learn in school and better equipped to succeed in life.

Children without health insurance are twice as likely not to receive any medical care in a given year as children with health care coverage. In addition, more than one in three uninsured children do not have a personal doctor or nurse - significantly higher than the rate for children with health care coverage (13.5%).

Unfortunately, the President’s budget proposes to significantly under fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years - not even providing enough funding to maintain coverage for those children already enrolled. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, under the President’s budget, more than 1 million children will lose coverage.

In sharp contrast, I am proud of the budget that the House passed in March that creates a deficit-neutral reserve fund to provide up to $50 billion in additional resources to expand children’s health care coverage.

This summer, Congress must pass a strong SCHIP Reauthorization bill that will ensure that all children currently enrolled can remain in the program and accelerate the rate of progress in covering more uninsured children - moving us towards the goal of all of America’s children having the coverage they need to stay healthy. Our children deserve no less.

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage