SCHIP Is Key Battle in War on Poverty

Debate over children's health insurance is really about the larger struggle we've failed to win.

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With SCHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program) set to expire next week, the Democratic Congress and President Bush are locked, pitbull-like, in a nasty debate over funding for uninsured children.

Sure it's a tear-jerker. No one wants to see children go without healthcare. But we as a nation must step back during this face-off to ask why is it that, absent a resolution to the debate, some 10 million American children (more than 6 million already on SCHIP and an additional 4 million whom congressional Democrats would like to add to the program) will be left uninsured? And what can we do to prevent future generations from becoming uninsured?

I know it's a radical concept for politicians (and not one designed to win the most votes), but why don't we as a nation have a conversation about why we have failed to eradicate poverty almost 50 years since the war on poverty began? If there were no poverty, there would be no children without health insurance. And why don't we try proactively to prevent future problems (like the growing number of uninsured kids) before these problems become both catastrophic and huge drains on taxpayers?

I started looking around to find out more about these uninsured children.

The progressive Center for Budget and Policy Priorities issued an urgent missive last month, saying, "The number of uninsured Americans rose for the sixth consecutive year in 2006, to 47 million, and the number of uninsured children rose for the second straight year, to 8.7 million, according to census data released on August 28. Between 1998, the year the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was implemented, and 2004, the number of uninsured children fell every year. But since 2004, as the availability of funding for SCHIP expansion has tightened and as a restrictive Medicaid policy enacted in early 2006 has taken effect, progress in enrolling uninsured children in SCHIP and Medicaid has stalled."

What the center doesn't tell you, at least not in the same paragraph, is the nature of the "restrictive Medicaid" policy that barred children from government-sponsored health coverage, as well as who these children are.

Next: The relationship between uninsured children and immigration