SCHIP: We're All One Horrendous Medical Bill Away from Needing Government Aid

BlogHer Original Post

The other day I opened my e-mail to see this note from MomsRising.

This morning the president vetoed a bill to provide funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). As a result, 6.6 million children could lose health care coverage beginning November 16 and millions more who need health care coverage won't get it at all. With his veto, the president ignored bi-partisan support in congress (sic) and the overwhelming support of the American people. It's time to stand up (literally!) against this outrageous decision and call for Congress to overturn the president's veto.

Rallies happened on Oct. 4.

In case you need some facts to inspire you, here are a few reasons the SCHIP program is so important (and great facts for your rally signs!):
*12% of American Children (sic) don't have any insurance coverage at all
* The U.S. Ranks (sic) 37th in the world for infant mortality
* One-in-five U.S. jobs does not provide health insurance, a pension, or wages high enough to support a family
* For a family of 4, one year of health insurance costs an average of 11,000
* Over 1/2 of all bankruptcy filings in 2001 were a result of medical expenses

Our own Morra Aarons wrote about this bill already last week, focusing on spending and politics. I want to devote some time to parents and their kids – the stories behind the numbers.

Health insurance has been on my mind since my mother got cancer twice during my childhood. The first time she got it, I was around 11, the second time, around 13. My family had health insurance, but even then, the medical bills were quite painful. I remember seeing the thick files of medical bills, the way my parents were always concerned about them, how they seemed to completely rule our lives for years. And we had health insurance. Now, nearly twenty years in remission, my mother is still difficult to insure. My parents entire working lives have revolved around making sure they had health insurance for her. Because folks – the health insurance companies are not going to make it easy for her to get insurance.

She’s an adult. She’s had cancer. I get why nobody wants to insure her – it’s a simple matter of risk. But young, healthy children? When prevention is so much cheaper than a cure? When growing bodies need monitoring? I don’t understand – I can’t understand – why anyone would deny a child health insurance. Regardless of bottom line – how can you look at your own children knowing you’ve purposefully denied a child medical care? Especially when we clearly have enough money to surge. This mismanagement of priorities makes bile rise in my throat.

Over at Chicago Mom’s Blog, this opinion spoke to me:

Regardless of where you are seated on the political aisle, health care is important. A serious illness, even if you have insurance, can financially cripple a family. Even a family that considers itself somewhat stable financially could easily be bankrupt by pregnancy and childbirth without insurance. For example, in my first pregnancy, which I assumed would be routine, my son and I racked up more than $100,000 in health care costs. How does the average American family handle something so catastrophic without insurance?

Robert Nelb at The Policy Farm Team wrote of the location where Bush announced his decision to veto – Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

When President Bush said that the proposed S-CHIP eligibility levels were too high, I could help but think of my relatives in Lancaster and many other families who caught in the middle of making too much for Medicaid but not enough for private insurance. They are the ones who are being “crowded out.”

And when President Bush concluded his comments by saying that he has had “a joyous experience being the President,” I couldn’t help but think of the 9 million uninsured children in Lancaster and across the country who were counting on Bush, even praying for him, to sign the S-CHIP bill. Today, they are the ones who have no reason to be joyful.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care who you are or how rich you are, healthcare can cost more than what you can afford. And it costs more in a big, lump sum due at the end of the month. We can’t predict what’s going to happen to our bodies – which is why insurance seems like such a gamble. Probably nothing. But when you wake up one morning and someone in your family is facing radiation and chemotherapy when the day before they were fine, you suddenly really, really need health insurance, or help, or something, because the mental burden of dealing with a loved one being very, very sick does not need the mental burden of wondering how the hell you’re going to pay for it added on for good measure.

What can we do? Maybe have your child send a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Bush, as was suggested on Goodyblog (affiliated with Parents magazine).

First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization, delivered more than 1,000 letters from children to Laura Bush last week. We hope that their sincere pleas will help convince the White House that children's health should be a national priority.

I’m sure it’s naïve to think letters alone will change the world, but politicians love to tell personal stories. Maybe we should, too. We need to put a face on these kids, because clearly, our administration doesn’t get it.


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