SCHIP funding helps children, mothers afford health care
IMAGINE that every pregnant woman and infant in the United States has health insurance that allows them to get the health care they need. Unlikely? Actually, this year we have an excellent opportunity to make great progress in reaching this goal.
As the March of Dimes WalkAmerica state chairman, I have seen infants and children with significant and ongoing health needs. I also know that health insurance is key to accessing medical services when they are needed.
Today, the federal State Children's Health Insurance Program insures more than six million children, but nine million children remain uninsured, with nearly two million (19 percent) of them eligible for SCHIP. In Hawaii, 20,600 children rely on SCHIP for their health coverage and, according to a Census Bureau estimate calculated for the March of Dimes, 20,000 children remain uninsured.
LATER this year, Congress is expected to write a bill to reauthorize SCHIP, and the March of Dimes thinks this is a perfect opportunity to tackle the persistent problem of uninsured women and children by taking the following simple steps:
» First, Congress should provide enough funding to enable states to enroll all children who are eligible for SCHIP. Lack of health insurance can mean delay or denial of needed medical services.
» Second, states should be given the option to enroll pregnant women who meet the program's income guidelines. Numerous studies have shown that health insurance coverage is essential for access to maternity care critical to the health of both mother and baby.
» Third, families with a child who has special medical needs but limited private insurance should be able to enroll their child in SCHIP as well. By combining private and public coverage, the two plans can work together to provide a more comprehensive set of health benefits. And a second advantage is that by allowing public and private coverage to work together, states will be able to stretch their SCHIP dollars to reach even more uninsured children.
TO IMPROVE program accountability to parents and policy makers, the SCHIP bill also should update guidelines for monitoring and reporting on the quality of pediatric services provided to children enrolled in the program.
Our congressional delegates should support extending this successful program, and we at the March of Dimes hope members of Congress also will embrace the recommendations listed above.
Millions of families rely on SCHIP for their children's health insurance; the program should be reauthorized and strengthened for them and for the children who are eligible but remain uninsured. Imagine that as reality -- bringing peace of mind to families across Hawaii.
John Reed, president and CEO of Hilo Hattie, is WalkAmerica statewide chairman for the March of Dimes-Hawaii Chapter.