Feds continue to dictate how states should cover children

ALEXANDRIA, VA – While Members of Congress attempt to work our a compromise on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), First Focus and its President Bruce Lesley continue to push for Congress to provide states with all available tools to provide millions of our nation’s children with the health care they need. In contrast, Congress’ negotiations are resulting in the new barriers and limits to coverage – an ideological fight that is unimportant to the vast majority of Americans. In fact, recent polling by GOP pollster Frank Luntz indicates that the vast majority of Americans – 9 in 10 –indicate that all children should have health coverage.

Today, Lesley made the following statement:
“Members of Congress are failing to keep their eye on the prize. Right now, there are 8.7 million uninsured children in this country and growing. When the SCHIP program was enacted by Newt Gingrich in 1997, its goal was to make sure states had the flexibility to address the health problems of children within their borders by any means available. Today, the goal must be the same – to give states the tools to reduce the number of uninsured dramatically, not creating new sets of barriers penalizing states for doing the right thing for children.

The ideological battle over the means of coverage, whether government-financed private health coverage, tax credits, or premium assistance, must end because all of them result in exactly the same thing — subsidized private health insurance coverage. States should have all options at their disposal when embarking on the difficult task of ensuring every American child has access to health care.

This SCHIP compromise should not erect barriers prohibiting states from achieving that common goal. Instead, they must be allowed the ability to take on the challenge of keeping our nation’s children healthy without new sets of barriers, restrictions, or limits set by Congress and the President, who annually provide themselves taxpayer-subsidized private health coverage.

No matter what action Congress takes to address the long-term health of the SCHIP program, funding to address the needs of states for fiscal year 2008 must be provided now. At this moment, states are developing contingency plans to cut off currently enrolled children and are considering plans to establish waiting lists or to limit benefits for children.

Millions of our nation’s children need health coverage now and are beginning to lose that care while adults in Washington, D.C. continue to fiddle while Rome burns.”