Kids Health Care: Government Makes a BIG Difference

August 16, 2006

Cross-posted on Daily Kos

Pop quiz: Who Said this?

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

If you guessed ‘Ronald Reagan’, you’re right (sorry, no prize!). If you guessed any number of other conservatives, you had good reason to do so. Over the last 40 years, conservatives have worked hard to try to convince the American people that, no matter what problem they face, government can do little, if anything, to help. Recent developments in children’s health care, however, undermine this notion and clearly show that, when harnessed creatively, government CAN make a difference.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a new report last week about the state of uninsured kids in America. The report shows a 20% decrease in uninsured children since 1997, thanks to the government-funded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). So much for government being the problem!

More on the flip.
From the RWJF press release:

The report shows that the number of uninsured children has decreased by 2 million since the creation of SCHIP and recent expansions in public programs. In the same period, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by nearly 5 million people. States with the biggest decline in the percentage of uninsured kids are Arkansas (-60 percent), Maine (-50 percent), Alabama (-47 percent), South Carolina (-46 percent) and North Dakota (-44 percent).

This is clearly great news, and lends support to the idea that smart government can make a real difference in the lives of ordinary citizens. But while we welcome this news, there is still a crisis of uninsured children in America. By RWJF’s calculations, 8.3 million children remain uninsured. If you include 18-year-olds in the picture (as we do in our own calculations), the number is closer to 9 million. Furthermore, the percentage of children who have private health insurance has fallen by five percent since 1997-98. This makes sense given the fact that the number of Americans enrolled in employer-sponsored health insurance plans has declined by 5% since 1998. As employer-based coverage declines, government finds itself picking up the slack. This is why it’s crucial that Congress reauthorize SCHIP at significantly higher funding levels in 2007; the consequences of failing to do so would be disastrous.

But we need more: A comprehensive solution to the crisis of uninsured kids in America is long overdue. We are part of the Campaign for Children’s Health Care, a diverse group of organizations working to make high-quality, affordable health coverage for all of America’s children a top national priority. The Campaign has a slew of activities planned to shine a spotlight on this issue, and we’ll keep you posted on them as they unfold.

If you care about children’s health care, take a moment to sign the petition and join the Campaign. We’ll have more updates on the state of children’s health care and the Campaign’s progress soon.