OUR OPINION: The return of healthcare for uninsured children

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

We do not agree with everything President Barack Obama does. But we are pleased to see one of his major campaign promises come into being early in his first 100 days in office.

Obama signed into law Wednesday an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance program that gives health coverage to  four million previously uninsured children in America, including 82,100 kids in Louisiana.

The legislation to expand the program was largely seen as a bipartisan effort, yet it remained in stalemate in Congress for the past year. With Obama’s election and the transfer of power in Congress from Republicans to Democrats, the legislation sailed into law.

Obama’s pledge to improve the health care situation in America was a major reason for his election to office, as the American public has grown increasingly dissatisfied with the complicated pathways to healthcare for average Americans, and the outright lack of healthcare for children whose families could not afford healthcare.

The SCHIP bill will fund children’s insurance for 4 1/2 years. Current SCHIP funding was about $84 million in Louisiana and was set to expire March 31. With the new law, the allotment formula changes, giving Louisiana $207 million for LaCHIP. A bill similar to the one just passed was vetoed by President Bush in 2007.

According to Sen. Mary Landrieu, the bill includes ways to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving SCHIP funding. One example: To receive SCHIP benefits, applicants must comply for the first time with the same citizenship documentation required of Medicare applicants.

The bill takes a common sense approach to making the program more efficient, according to Landrieu. It extends health care to the kids through a tax on tobacco products rather than tapping the Federal Treasury.

LaCHIP has been a critical program for Louisiana children whose parents earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford the roughly $12,000 per year to insure a family.

Landrieu also said the quality of care and services that LaCHIP offers has been improved by the largely bipartisan legislation. Preventive care - an area often overlooked by the medical profession - is to be brought into the mix to help keep insurance rates lower overall in Louisiana and the nation.

We note that Louisiana’s trio of doctors in the House of Representatives, Bill Cassidy, John Fleming and Charles Boustany, voted against the legislation to continue and expand SCHIP funding.

We would like to think these gentlemen want to see healthcare available for children who cannot afford it, but simply differ in opinion with the current administration as to how that healthcare should be provided.

Perhaps they and other dissenters like Sen. David Vitter will find solace in the knowledge that healthcare for children who have no insurance is now at least being provided, even if it is not being dispensed in the manner they might have preferred.