Children need health insurance

9/18/2007

By Cassandra Welchlin
Congregations for Children

A new legislative session will be upon us soon. Last year Congregations for Children won some and lost others as we worked at our state Capitol to improve the lives of children. This year will be no different. Our state and federal leaders have critical decisions to make concerning the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)/Medicaid. 

Several weeks ago my 2½ year-old-daughter had a viral infection that caused her to run a fever for three days. Her throat was fiery red, her eyes and nose ran with thick mucus and as a result she lost her voice. My husband and I decided to take her to see the pediatrician when the over-the-counter medication proved ineffective. She was placed on antibiotics and a cough syrup which seemed to work immediately. Within a few days our little princess was up dancing and singing.

Fortunately, we had health insurance and our daughter was able to get good quality health care. Unfortunately, that is not the story of the majority of American households.

The number of uninsured children in the United States has doubled since 2004-05, bringing the total to 9.4 million. More than 700,000 children have been added to the uninsured, according to the new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

From 2003-2006, a total of 146,000 of Mississippi’s children were uninsured. The increase of uninsured has been attributed to the face-to-face certification and re-certification process implemented by the Division of Medicaid. Mississippi is one of only a few states that require this process at re-certification. Other states use mail-in or phone re-certification process.

Two weeks ago on Capitol Hill both the U.S. House and Senate moved in the right direction to reduce the number of uninsured children living in the United States. The House passed the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection (CHAMP) Act.

Specifically, it includes more than $47 billion in new funding over five years to provide health coverage for uninsured children under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and Medicaid, as well as policy improvements that will help states cover 4.1 million uninsured children. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson voted yes, and Rep. Gene Taylor voted no.

The Senate bill provides less money over a five-year period and fewer policy improvements to only cover 3.1 million uninsured children. Though not as strong as the House bill, this legislation is also a step in the right direction. Both Mississippi senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott voted against this bill despite its passage.

The SCHIP program expires Sept. 30 unless Congress acts.

What can you do? Call your congressional leaders and tell them you support comprehensive health care coverage for all children in America and you want them to vote your values.

To contact your leaders and learn more about the issue please visit the Children’s Defense Fund Web site, www.childrensdefense.org. Our children matter!

Wechlin is legislative liaison for Congregations For Children, an advocacy group supported by the United Methodist, Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches in Mississippi.