It's September and that means it's back to school for millions of children, and back to session for our Congress. There isn't a healthcare advocate that I know who doesn't realize that this session of Congress holds the healthcare and future welfare of almost 9 million children in their hands. It is a deeply disturbing fact that in this country, with all it's wealth and innovation, we have children without access to consistent and comprehensive healthcare.
Many states have extended coverage to school-aged children through the States Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Yet there still are too many working families living in poverty or near poverty who can not afford health coverage.
Masschusetts is a state that has made covering kids a priority. But without a full appropriation of $50 billion, roughly 14,000 children in the Bay State will lose that coverage. Some of them were just covered by our health reform expansion, and now they are again in health insurance jeopardy. These are children living in families who earn between 250 - 300% FPL.
Without this funding for S-CHIP, chances are their parents will be in health insurance jeopardy as well.
That's why late next week, hundreds of healthcare workers from SEIU Healthcare, traveling from many states across this country, will descend on Washington DC. They will go there to lobby members of Congress to keep their resolve and do the right thing by expanding funding of S-CHIP.
President Bush is waiting to veto this funding. He has already drawn a line in the sand. It is time for the voice of America's children to be heard!
SEIU Healthcare workers from Jordan Hospital, Boston Medical Center and Union Hospital will advocate for our kids, bringing their petitions to add to the more than one million petition signatures that will be delivered to Congress.
Healthcare reform in Massachusetts will be forced to take a terrible step backward if the President vetoes this funding. In addition, as Massachusetts begins negotiating our new federal waiver to finance health reform, federal matching dollars may be at risk. The Bush administration may try to win these funding restrictions through rule-setting, holding our children and all of our reform efforts hostage to the Administration's punitive policy.
Hospital CEOs and hospital workers, nursing home owners and nursing assistants all have this in common: we know that for healthcare reform to work, all of our kids must be insured!
If you haven't signed the S-CHIP petition, please go to www.seiuhealthcare.org and sign it today. Do it for children throughout Massachusetts and throughout our country.
Celia Wcislo is a member of the Connector board
and Assistant Division Director, 1199 SEIU
This program aired on September 13, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.