Support Health Coverage for Uninsured Children

The Coalition on Human Needs has issued an urgent action alert to mobilize public support for reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

SCHIP provides health insurance for children of working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicare but not enough to afford private health insurance. It had to be temporarily extended last year because President Bush twice vetoed an expansion that would have covered an additional 4.1 million children–most of them already eligible for coverage.

Expansion is more urgent than ever. CHN says that more than a million more children are now uninsured because their parents have been laid off and so no longer have employer-sponsored health insurance.

Congress has decided to put SCHIP expansion at the top of its action agenda, knowing it will not again be vetoed. And the votes seem to be there. But more is needed than a higher level of authorized funding.

Under current law, immigrant children and pregnant women who are legally in this country must wait five years to become eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP. The bill in the House of Representatives would allow states to eliminate this discriminatory waiting period. The current Senate bill would not.

The House is likely to pass its version of SCHIP reauthorization today. The Senate will begin considering its version soon. So those who want SCHIP expanded and legal immigrant children treated equitably need to contact their Senators ASAP. (Or course, those of us who live in D.C. have no voting Senators to influence. But that’s an issue for another day.)

For the rest of you, there’s a toll-free hotline to the Capitol Hill switchboard. Just call 1-800-828-0498 and ask to be put through to each of your Senator’s offices. Two quick, free calls could make a big difference for children’s health.

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