EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

August 5, 2007

Children's health insurance program

Both houses of Congress last week passed bills to expand government-funded health insurance for children. The decade-old State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, was established to provide health insurance for children from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but that do not have private health insurance.



The bills ease qualifying criteria, making about 6 million more children eligible for the program. The House version of the bill, more extensive than the Senate's, pays for the expansion by cutting Medicare payments to private insurers who cover the elderly and disabled, and by a big hike in federal tobacco taxes.



The Bush administration has promised a veto, saying the expansion of SCHIP extends government health insurance benefits beyond the poor into the middle class.



Point: We're fighting for the health of our children



Edward M. Kennedy



This week, the United States Senate debated one of the most critical pieces of legislation of our time. The Children's Health Insurance Program is based on one simple and powerful idea - that all children deserve a healthy start in life, and that no parents should have to worry about whether they can afford to take their child to the doctor when the child is sick. Since it was enacted in 1997, when Sen. Orrin Hatch and I worked together to create this program, the Children's Health Insurance Program has been a remarkable success.



An average of 4 million uninsured children are now covered each month, and 6 million are enrolled at some point each year. As a result, in the past decade, the percentage of uninsured children has dropped from almost 23 percent in 1997 to 14 percent today. That reduction is significant, but it's obviously far from enough. Nine million children in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth continue to have no coverage. Nine million uninsured children in America isn't just wrong, it's outrageous, and we need to reduce it as much as possible and as soon as possible.



Studies show that CHIP helps to improve children's school performance. After one year on CHIP, children pay more attention in class and are more likely to keep up with all their school activities. When children receive the health care they need, they do better academically, emotionally, physically and socially. CHIP helps create children to be prepared to contribute to America.



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