By KJ Mushung
On Feb. 4, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP was originally created in 1997 to provide health care coverage for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid yet not enough to afford their own health insurance. But the program expired in 2007. Former President George W. Bush vetoed two follow-up bills designed to extend and expand it, so congress passed a brief extension of the program that’s set to run until April 2009 and which does not cover as many children as the new bill.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 reauthorizes the SCHIP program to 2013 and allows individual states the option of eliminating the five-year waiting period to receive coverage for legal immigrant children and children of new citizens.
Before signing the bill, Obama spoke publicly about his reasons for passing it.
“No child in America should be receiving her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night. No child should be falling behind at school because he can’t hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our kids fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiation; health care for our children is one of those obligations.”
The president said that protecting the well-being of children “is a responsibility that has only grown more urgent as our economic crisis has deepened, health care costs have exploded and millions of working families are unable to afford health insurance.”
“Today in America, eight million children are still uninsured,” stated Obama. “It’s hard to overstate the toll this takes on our families: the sleepless nights worrying that someone’s going to get hurt, or praying that a sick child gets better on her own. The decisions that no parent should ever have to make --- how long to put off that doctor’s appointment, whether to fill that prescription, whether to let a child play outside, knowing that all it takes is one accident, one injury, to send your family into financial ruin.”
Democratic National Committee Executive Director Jennifer O’Malley Dillon said in a press release that, thanks to the reauthorization of SCHIP, millions of children will have access to the health care they need.
“No child in this country should have to go without the doctors’ visits they need to stay well or the medicine they need when they’re sick,” said Dillon. “Today, President Obama and the democrats in congress who worked tirelessly to pass this bill changed all that. This important legislation means that parents won’t have to choose between a hospital visit and a mortgage payment.”
On the day of the bill-signing, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared that SCHIP “represents real change for America’s children,” referencing Obama’s campaign slogan.
KJ Mushung is a Stafford parent and career journalist.