Helping itself

Published 6:07 am Saturday, June 9, 2007

By Staff
North Carolina is in line to obtain about $1.4 billion in new federal funds to increase children’s health coverage during the next five years, according to a report issued this week by Families USA, a consumer health organization.
If that report is accurate, it’s a boost for efforts to improve health coverage for the state’s estimated 274,783 uninsured children. Congress is expected to act soon on legislation that could make more money available for those efforts.
Congress can’t act soon enough to make it happen.
The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed budget resolutions setting aside $50 billion above current spending for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid over the next five years. There’s a catch. That extra money becomes available only if two things occur, according to Families USA. First, Congress has to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program, unless reauthorized, expires Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. Second, Congress must “pay for” the extra $50 billion for the program by finding new revenue sources and/or reducing other federal expenses by a commensurate amount, according to a Families USA news release.
Key congressional votes on this are expected this month. Hopefully, Congress will find the money and extend the program. North Carolina children without health insurance deserve no less.
Pollack is right; the stakes are high. Any time one gambles with children’s health, the stakes are high. Continuing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and putting more money into it is a safe bet when it comes to protecting children.
To be sure, some people will describe the State Children’s Health Insurance Program as another welfare give-away program. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is about looking after the welfare of children who don’t have the protection offered by health insurance.
The program also appears to be good for the state’s economic health. According to the Families USA report, the additional money that could be provided to North Carolina would not only help children, but it would also improve the state’s economy. Over the next five years, the $1.4 billion in new federal funding could create $607 million in increased business activity, $222 million in increased wages and 6,901 additional jobs for state residents.
Even if half of those amounts are realized, that’s improving the state’s economic health.
The more the state spends on its North Carolina Health Choice for Children program, the more federal money it receives.
That means North Carolina can help itself when it comes to increasing children’s health coverage. And by helping itself, the state can help its children who have no health coverage.
Those children need all the help they can get. It should be given to them.