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Covering the Uninsured Through the Eyes of a Child

Testimony Before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health

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The most notable health policy accomplishment of this Congress may be its legislation on children’s health insurance coverage. The year 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of SCHIP: a successful, bipartisan, federal-state collaboration that improved the nation’s health coverage.

SCHIP and Medicaid contributed to a one-third reduction in the rate of low-income, uninsured children between 1997 and 2005. Yet SCHIP’s expiration in 2007 will force policymakers to revisit their investment in children’s health insurance coverage. Much of this debate will be couched in budget terms, focusing on the amount of the increase in federal spending on health insurance for children. However, other costs should be considered as well.

Inadequate federal support could mean increased costs to states that do not consider scaling back on children’s coverage an option. Private health insurance costs could increase from the cost shifting of uncompensated care and, eventually, Medicare costs could rise as children with unattended health problems become seniors with chronic diseases. Families could pay for the cost of care for their uninsured children and, for those that delay it, higher costs associated with worsened problems. And, ultimately, children themselves would bear the greatest cost in the form of preventable suffering and limitations on their lifelong prospects.

That said, I am optimistic that the leadership of this Committee that succeeded in expanding coverage for children a decade ago will do so again. This nation is ready for change and, I believe, will support efforts to make high-quality health insurance affordable and available to all children, as well as all Americans.

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