By now, we all know the debate over reforming our nation’s health system has taken over the political discourse at home, on television, and on the internet. We are seeing a flurry of information from pundits, bloggers, and experts regarding what the American people want from health reform. So as cable news networks continue to distort the truth with insignificant online polls and choice footage from town halls, First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, set out to determine what is really on the minds of the American public.

As Americans, one thing we all agree on is the importance of investing in the health of our nation’s children. And the numbers indicate that the American public strongly believes that providing children with comprehensive benefits through health reform should be a top priority. A recent poll conducted by Lake Research Partners found that by an overwhelming 8-to-1 margin (87-11%) Americans favor ensuring all children have health care coverage, including by a 68-28% margin, even if it increases their taxes. The survey also found that the American people’s top priorities for health reform are (1) controlling costs and (2) covering all children, respectively.

These findings are not surprising since these two priorities are truly complementary. Our polling demonstrates that the public recognizes what health care experts have long understood — a major way to control long-term health care costs is by investing in comprehensive children’s health care now. Americans understand that when an asthmatic child can get regular treatment, she is less likely to need emergency room care. That helps to keep the child in school and parents at work, and it helps taxpayers avoid the high cost of paying for unreimbursed emergency care and serious illnesses, which result when care is delayed.

Americans clearly recognize that providing children with immunizations and well-child visits reduces healthcare costs well into the future. In other words, for children the costs of prevention are far lower than the life-long costs of chronic illness. Americans firmly believe this rather common sense notion by a sizable 53-20% margin.

Upon receiving the results of the poll, Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research, remarked, “By overwhelming majorities, American voters want to ensure that all children have health care coverage. They also want to ensure children are not left worse off by health reform.” In fact, some in Congress have proposed to eliminate the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and instead move those children to a new health system under a Health Insurance Exchange, whose function and outline is still being formulated by Congress. To that end, the American public would caution Congress to be extra careful in how they proceed and to adopt a “do no harm” standard for children currently enrolled in programs such as Medicaid and CHIP.

In fact, a significant 3-1 majority (62-21%) of Americans would oppose the elimination of CHIP if they learned that the Exchange “may be more costly for families and provide fewer benefits for children.” Moreover, by an almost 4-to-1 margin of 54-14%, Americans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported a health care reform plan that reduced the level of health care coverage for children.

The message from the American people is rather simple: Covering all children is a top priority in health reform. This means that no matter what action Congress takes, they must address the unique developmental needs of children by ensuring they have comprehensive benefits that cover them from head to toe. There are no do-overs for childhood. We must get health reform right the first time by enacting legislation that improves coverage and care for our most precious resource, our children.

Originally Posted on the Huffington Post