Health insurance program produces healthy children

Monday, October 8, 2007 | 10:40 a.m. CDT; updated 7:01 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — A farmer who works hard but has no large employer nearby through which his spouse can get health care coverage for their son with juvenile diabetes. A mom making ends meet with a low-income job that doesn’t provide insurance. A parent desiring to move up in his or her career but unable to make the move, afraid their child’s pre-existing condition will not be covered on the new insurance. These are the real people and real circumstances that the State Children’s Health Insurance Program helps.

While there is much debate about what to do about the health care crisis in this country, there is a growing consensus that covering our children and giving them access to quality preventive and ongoing health care services should be a national and local priority. Many children in Missouri do not have the option to go to the doctor or dentist when they have an ear infection or a cavity. More than 80 percent of the uninsured are working, yet the rising cost of health care, a stagnant economy and low wages prevent many parents from getting needed health care for their children.

SCHIP has reduced the number of uninsured children nationally by one-third. For a decade, SCHIP has allowed states to expand coverage through Medicaid or create separate programs meeting federal requirements. In many states, these new options build on and facilitated public-private partnership efforts to reach and enroll more children in the program. In Missouri, the program is not “free” to those who can afford premiums, and in the reauthorization act, that state flexibility is retained. Missouri can decide for itself the appropriate level of personal responsibility and participation. It is, however, a dependable and portable option — meaning a parent can move from job to job ­— for caregivers who have no other option.

SCHIP has been proven to sustain healthier communities where prevention care is promoted, to produce healthier kids who are better learners and to reduce the cost of expensive emergency care and the financial burden it places on all of us, including providers, parents and society.

Through a bipartisan compromise supported by both of Missouri’s U.S. senators, Congress passed an expansion of this valuable program, but President Bush vetoed it. Rep. Kenny Hulshof consistently has supported the president in his many misadventures. Unfortunately this is no exception.

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