Washington's governor has made a move that would please even his political opponents.
Governor Chris Gregoire has moved the senate to unanimously approve of a bill that would change the face of the state's health system.
The bill is expected to extend health insurance to 38, 000 children in Washington.
According to the governor, this bill serves to extend the coverage of children by health insurance to a total of 624,000 children, through four programs: Medicaid, the State's Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), the Children's Health Program and the state Basic Health Plan.
The bill seeks to ensure that by 2010 all Washington children have health coverage through private or public health plans. The ultimate aim of the bill is to offer universal health coverage to all state residents within five years.
According to the bill, unmarried adults ages 19 to 25 would be eligible to remain on their parents' health insurance and their employers would be able to contribute to the cost of coverage.
The state is planning a means for public and private markets to use their collective purchasing power to negotiate premiums at cheaper rates. In this context, the state plans to expand its subsidized health insurance program for low-income working adults.
In addition, under the plan, health insurance would be transferable, nonemergency care would be diverted to local clinics and more focus would be placed on technology.
According to the governor, the plan would cost about $25 million in new spending over the next two years.
Many in the medical fraternity welcome the move, and also ask for more.
Says Dr. Erik Steele, chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare systems: 'Among developed nations, ours is the only one that does not provide universal health insurance to children. It has the highest rates of infant and childhood mortality in the developed world. Someday soon Congress will decide if it is acceptable that 9 million children in the richest nation on earth have no health insurance and therefore do not get all the health care they need.'
Steele is seeking mothers, and fathers too, to stand as lobbyists from Washington and press Congress for more funds to flow in order to support the S-CHIP.
Steele is looking to urge Congress to put about $90 billion over five years into the federal budget to fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), the federal program which, above Medicaid, expands health insurance coverage to the children of lower income, working Americans parents.
Says Steele: 'S-CHIP currently insures more than 6 million of our kids; if expanded as proposed it could cover the other 9 million. Children who do not have health insurance are less likely to get the health care they need than children who have health insurance. They are less likely to get all the vaccinations they need against diseases such as meningitis and measles, which can damage their brains and even kill them, against polio, against whooping cough and ear infections, and more. The care they get in hospitals is sometimes less complete than it should be. They are less likely to have a regular physician, and more likely to use the emergency department when ill.'