- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Campaign for Children’s Health Care kicked off yesterday in an effort to extend federal health coverage to all children and raise awareness about the large number of uninsured children.

The campaign, sponsored by more than 30 health and education organizations, comes at a time when Congress prepares to question the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in the spring. SCHIP was created in 1997 to provide health care coverage to more than 5 million uninsured children in the U.S.

However, according to the campaign, an additional 9 million children are without health insurance.

“Today, there are more than 9 million children uninsured, and the majority are in working families,” Ron Pollack, vice president of Families USA, said at a press conference yesterday at the National Press Club to kick off the campaign. “In 2007, Congress will debate what to do about children’s health care. We want this campaign to serve as a platform for Congress and the president to make sure all children are covered.”

Mr. Pollack said it could cost an additional $8 billion for Congress to maintain SCHIP coverage. If coverage is extended to the 9 million children still left uninsured, the amount skyrockets.

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said taxpayer costs must be looked at differently. Although the immediate government expenditure will go up, the long-term effect will be a reduction in the number of adults who need health care.

“People will tell you there is a cost, but there is also a cost for not doing it,” Mr. Benjamin said.

Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said those without adequate health care suffer in education.

“We know there is a direct correlation between health and education,” Ms. Cortese said at the press conference. “Children with untreated health problems have trouble concentrating in class and have higher absentee rates.”

The problem with the campaign’s goal, said Rod Martin, chairman and founder of thevanguard.org, an online conservative group, is that the coalition members refuse to “open their minds” to free-market reforms.

“We wonder at this proposal’s focus on increased government expenditure. If every American had tax-exempt health care, which President Bush’s health-saving account plan is a great beginning toward, health care prices would come down and access would expand,” Mr. Martin said. “Yet liberals continue to rave against these reforms and propose more and more of the same.”

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