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Gov. Gregoire urges federal lawmakers to fund children's health care

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2008

Washington, D.C. – Gov. Chris Gregoire today urged federal lawmakers to eliminate recent federal restrictions that will make it more difficult for states to ensure that all children have access to health coverage.

Speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Gov. Gregoire testified that federal rules would prohibit Washington and other states from offering health care to the 4 million children nationally who remain uninsured.

“Federal actions that forbid states from offering health care to a child are just plain wrong,” said Gregoire. “We know that healthy children are far more likely to succeed in school and in life. The Administration is simply inviting more children to receive care in emergency rooms, when their health care conditions are more severe, the consequences to the child more painful, and the cost to society greater.”

Congress created SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, in 1997 as a bipartisan measure to provide health care for children, with funding split between states and the federal government. By providing preventative care and avoiding more expensive emergency room visits, SCHIP has been successful in keeping kids healthy and saving taxpayers’ money.

In Washington, three programs serve low-income families: Medicaid and SCHIP – which are federally funded – and the 2007 Children’s Health Program (CHP), a state-funded program with a goal to ensure that all children in Washington have health insurance coverage by 2010.

Under the governor’s leadership, Washington’s uninsured rate for children has dropped significantly, and 84,000 more children have access to health care today than in 2005.

These insurance programs provide coverage for 583,000 children. Another 1.2 million children are covered by private insurance, most of it in employer plans.

Despite these totals, however, up to 70,000 children are without insurance coverage.

“To meet our goal of covering all kids, we need the federal government to serve as a partner and not a roadblock,” Gov. Gregoire testified.

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