Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” The recent Census Bureau report states that the number of uninsured children nationwide rose to 8.7 million in 2006 from 8 million in 2005. It is clear that the health of children is not a national priority; this is something that we must change.
Congress is currently engrossed in the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, of which the ultimate goal should be to cover as many children as possible. The program, set to expire on Sept. 30, is relying on a compromise between the House and Senate bills — a process that is currently being delayed by Senate Republicans.
The major difference is that the House version will cover 5 million more children than are currently covered — 2 million more than in the Senate bill. The House version also has the further goal of making much-needed fixes to our health-care system as a whole.
During debate, House Republicans sabotaged the spirit of bipartisanship by including an unconnected issue to public health. In their efforts to restate the bill’s prohibition of services for undocumented immigrants in their motion to recommit, Republicans needlessly attacked legal, taxpaying, permanent residents.
More discouraging to the fate of children’s health insurance is the looming threat of a veto from the president and the uphill battle that must be waged to gather the needed votes to override that veto.
In addition to his veto threat, the president has instituted administrative regulations that will severely limit the number of children covered by this program, thereby violating the original Children’s Health Insurance law. These new regulations also violate the Administrative Procedures Act, the law that provides direction for federal rulemaking, as the regulations were announced without official notice or comment periods, which formal administrative rule-making regulations require.
The president has turned his back on his commitment to children’s health, abandoning his 2004 pledge in which he said, “We will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs.”
Children’s access to health insurance must grow and improve to meet the changing needs of our community. With the rising costs of insurance premiums and health care, it is imperative for states to be allowed to adjust their programs to fit their states’ needs, without the inflexibility of the administration’s new regulations.
The families in need of access to health insurance have expanded from low-income to include the middle class, and our eligibility requirements must allow the flexibility to reflect that change.