Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Media Release: Children must come out of federal health reform better off, not worse

September 18, 2009—The Children’s Alliance today released the following statement about federal health reform and health coverage for Washington’s children. Jon Gould, Deputy Director, said:

“We in Washington have done better than average in taking care of the health needs of our children. We were among the first states in the nation to pledge to cover every child by 2010. And we have built a coverage program, Apple Health for Kids, that has delivered comprehensive, affordable coverage to thousands of children who otherwise would have relied on the emergency room for their health care needs.

We expect health reform efforts in Washington, D.C. to support our state’s laudable goals for children’s health care—not work against them. Children must come out of federal health reform better off than they were before, not worse. Our Congressional delegation has a history of standing up for children’s health coverage. They stood up for kids when the Children’s Health Insurance Program faced reauthorization earlier this year, and we need them to stand up for kids again as health reform bills are amended and the process moves forward.

Every health reform plan to come out of Senate and House committees so far would sunset the highly successful Children’s Health Insurance Program, a proven federal-state partnership that is a cornerstone to the comprehensive and affordable children’s coverage Washington offers families through Apple Health for Kids. We are greatly concerned about the potential effects of plans to dismantle this program, which has done so much to deliver comprehensive health care to children in our state. As demonstrated in the U.S. Census numbers last week, CHIP is responsible for lowering the children’s uninsurance rate in this country—even with the challenge of the recession. And the percentage of insured children in Washington state remained stable, despite sizeable losses in employer-sponsored health coverage due to job losses and cut backs.

We have been promised that those who have a health plan they like can keep it; this should be as true for children enrolled in Apple Health for Kids as it is for anyone else.

The provisions for children’s health coverage in the Baucus Bill are woefully inadequate. They break what works and put in place questionable strategies for covering kids.

We support efforts by Senator Jay Rockefeller to preserve what CHIP allows states like Washington to do in terms of comprehensive benefits, eligibility, and affordability by amending the Baucus Bill. We also see potential in the approach taken in the House of Representatives, where an amendment offered by Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado bars moving children into an insurance exchange unless the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services certifies that the benefits, cost and access to providers is comparable to an average CHIP plan. Another amendment, forwarded by Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, would ensure that children’s benefits in an insurance exchange are comprehensive enough to meet the physical, emotional and developmental needs of children. And, we view inclusion of a “public option” to compete with private insurers as the most promising means of keeping coverage affordable.

Whatever the mechanisms, Congress must protect children even as members work to put insurance within the reach of their parents.

The U.S. Congress and President Obama made a substantial commitment to ensuring the health of our children when they reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program earlier this year. And our leaders in Washington state made an equally great commitment to children when they preserved the Apple Health for Kids program in the face of a substantial budget deficit. At this time, our congressional delegation needs to make an equal commitment to protecting children in the health reform debate.”