In response to this need, community health centers (CHC's) from across the Dakotas have joined a national effort to address the ever growing need for affordable health coverage, especially relating to children and families. The Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD) announced that they are joining together to support the expansion of federal and state programs to cover uninsured children.
At issue is the fate of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – called "Healthy Steps" in North Dakota and "CHIP" in South Dakota. For the past 10 years, SCHIP has provided health coverage to children whose parents are either not offered health insurance for their children through their job, or who cannot afford the insurance that is offered. More than 6 million children are covered by SCHIP nationwide.
"Too many children in our communities and our nation are uninsured and do not receive the care they need," said Scot Graff, CEO of CHAD. "There has never been a more important time for us to come together and support federal efforts to provide health coverage to children. Congress must continue to fund SCHIP and make America's uninsured their top priority."
Congress must reauthorize SCHIP in 2007 in order for the program to continue and President Bush, governors and members of Congress are discussing budget figures for the program's future. Experts say the current funding levels for these state programs ��set in 1997 – are not adequate to keep up with the growing numbers of uninsured kids, so it will take an increase in federal funding to cover kids currently enrolled in these programs, with more money needed to cover more uninsured children.
"The country's most successful effort to provide insurance to vulnerable children is in danger unless Congress and the president act decisively to reauthorize and expand SCHIP," said Graff. "If they do not provide sufficient funding for the program, millions of children who desperately need health insurance will remain uninsured."
Now in its fifth year, the Cover the Uninsured campaign is the largest mobilization in history to shine a national spotlight on the need to secure health coverage for all Americans. Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this year's effort is galvanizing a broad network of business owners, union members, teachers, students, consumers, doctors, nurses and faith leaders to focus on the need for children to have health insurance. Organizers are plan- ning activities that highlight the success of SCHIP, demonstrate the ongoing need for the program and enroll eligible families in available coverage programs. The centerpiece of the campaign is Cover the Uninsured Week, April 23-29, 2007. "There are so many people that can't afford health insurance, said Laurel Johnson, a community health center patient from Hatton, ND. "Therefore, they don't go to a physician, dentist or eye doctor. Health insurance is not affordable for most people."
For more information on the campaign and events taking place across the nation, visit www.CoverTheUninsured.org. To learn more about who is eligible for health coverage under the ND Healthy Steps and SD CHIP programs, visit the follow Web sites: North Dakota: www.nd.gov/hu manservices South Dakota:www.dss.sd.gov