Thursday, May 05, 2005

Help parents raise healthy kids

From the Miami Herald:

Help parents raise healthy kids

American families put kids first every day, working hard to give their children opportunities they never had. Washington, however, turns a blind eye as 11 million children in America -- 646,390 in Florida alone -- go without health insurance.

As I traveled the country last year, I had the special privilege of meeting great families every day -- good people who love their communities, love our country and are determined to build a better life for their kids. Their stories are the driving force behind my Kids First plan.

Since I introduced my bill in January, more than 500,000 people have signed up to be citizen co-sponsors, and thousands more have called in to give personal testimony about why insuring every child is so important.

Washington's indifference

A mother from Hollywood said, ``I'm a single mom and I have two kids. For many years I was not able to afford the health insurance that my children needed, and because of that I have accumulated over $40,000 worth of medical bills since my children were born.''

It's no wonder people are so upset about Washington's indifference on children's healthcare. More than 16 percent of Florida's 2-year-olds are not even immunized. One-third of kids with asthma nationwide suffer without the medication they need. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, that simply shouldn't be the case.

Insuring every child won't require big tax hikes or new bureaucracy. In fact, we can provide health-insurance coverage for every kid in America if we simply roll back the president's tax cut for individuals making over $300,000 a year. It's hardly a tough choice.

The benefits to all of us would be numerous. It would reduce avoidable hospitalizations by an estimated 22 percent. Children enrolled in public health insurance programs rate 68 percent better in measures of school performance than those without coverage. And the long-term cost savings, not only in healthcare, but in education, job training and reduced stress on our families, are incalculable.

National responsibility

Over the course of the campaign, I fought to expand coverage and lower premiums for every single American. Sadly, Washington is unwilling to tackle comprehensive healthcare reform. But surely we can begin to make progress where the cost of action is low and the cost of continued inaction is so very high: our children.

The government can't raise people's kids; nor should it. But we can reestablish a national responsibility for children's healthcare by building a strong partnership with the states, which are responsible for running the state healthcare systems, and with parents, who are responsible for raising healthy kids.

Instead of dumping the problem on states, my proposal offers them a new bargain: The national government will give Florida immediate fiscal relief in exchange for a commitment not only to cover all kids but to make sure they get the coverage they're eligible for. That means cutting the current red tape that results in the huge gap between the kids who are eligible and those who actually get covered. Under my plan, Florida will save more thanr $114 million per year.

We need a new bargain with parents as well. We should help them buy employer-sponsored coverage where it's available. And we will allow parents who don't qualify for public programs to buy coverage for their children at cost.

Value families

Parents' side of the bargain is to take advantage of these opportunities. If they don't, they will not be able to claim the child tax credit on their federal tax returns. If we believe drivers have a responsibility to buy car insurance, surely we believe parents have a responsibility to get health insurance for their kids.

In an era when politicians like to use the word values, insuring kids is a test of who just talks about family values and who really values families. I am proud that Rep. Kendrick Meek has co-sponsored Kids First. We will work to make it the law of the land.

Sen. John Kerry will be in Miami on Friday for a discussion on his Kids First plan.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

I agree parents should raise health kids and provide health coverage as it can be crucial to many.

12:06 PM  

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