Today, the Senate passed an expanded version of the SCHIP bill (H.R. 563) which will provide health insurance to an additional 4 million uninsured youth, including legal immigrant children!
Children are one of the most precious resources of our community and nation. The health of a child is, in essence, the health of our future. Since 1997, the federal government has supported the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which provides low-income children in working families who make too much to receive Medicaid, but too little to afford private health insurance with viable health insurance. SCHIP is an especially critical program in our current economy, when many people are losing their jobs and employer-based healthcare.
And for the first time, this year's SCHIP legislation took an important step by eliminating the five-year waiting period to access health services for legal immigrant children and pregnant women. As any parent or child caretaker knows, five years is a lifetime to a child. For a child with autism, asthma, or hearing and vision impairments, waiting for five years for treatment could result in life-long or even life-threatening consequences.
But some Congresspersons tried to block the expansion of SCHIP through an amendment barring legal immigrant children from coverage, attempting to turn the debate from children's healthcare to immigration. The majority ruled, however, and this amendment failed by voice vote.
I think this can be claimed as a victory for our communities! For once, Congress was able to put aside labels and focus on the well-being of the individual, the child.