A decade back, Santa Clara County in the U.S became the first in the nation to set a goal of making sure every child has health insurance. The results were overwhelming. Now, nearly every child under age 5 has access to health coverage. The number of uninsured kids has dropped from 70,000 in 1997 to roughly 11,000 today. That success has made the county a model for the nation.
Yet, there are miles to go. Santa Clara should lead the fight for Congress to continue adding on to the funds of the nation's State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
AdvertisementThe program now covers about 6.6 million children. But due to shooting costs in health care, Congress has to work on a plan to increase spending. Else, thousands of kids in Santa Clara County - and millions across America - will fall off the roles of the insured.
Expanding health coverage to children has been one of Congress' highest domestic priorities this year. And not for small reason-polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans favor universal coverage for children.
There has been unanimous approval for the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate for voting in favor of an increase in the cigarette tax to pay for the expansion, in the face of a veto from the President himself.
For Americans, knowing that 46 million of them lack health insurance is bad news, yet the fact that 6.8 million children still have no coverage in this rich country is unforgivable.
Most Americans intuitively realize the long-term savings of providing coverage to children.
Children who have access to medical care are demonstrably healthier than their uninsured counterparts. They're more likely to get routine checkups, where doctors can identify vision, hearing and speaking disabilities - problems that, if ignored, often result in bright children being tagged as "learning disabled." Healthy kids do better in school and are more likely to become productive members of society.
The program before Congress is not a giveaway. It provides for federal, state and local governments to share the burden of taking care of poor children.
For example, it provides states with federal matching funds to provide health care to children whose family income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford private insurance. The states in turn offer matching funds to local governments hoping to expand coverage.
Santa Clara County was one of the first to realize the potential benefits. It started the groundbreaking Healthy Kids program, which has provided low-cost health coverage to tens of thousands of children. Other counties saw the benefits and hopped on board.
The compromise plan provides hope for a healthier future for an additional 3.3 million uninsured children. Critics of the present government urge the President to do just that.