Childrenâ�?�?s health bill is an ounce of prevention By U.S. Senator Tim Johnson There are more than 18,000 South Dakota children without health insurance right now. Thatâ�?�?s nine percent of all children in our state. These numbers are sobering, especially during this economic downturn. Many American families cannot afford the cost of health insurance premiums that have doubled in the past eight years. The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits has reached an all-time record. With recent news that South Dakotaâ�?�?s unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent late last year, it is clear this trend is affecting us at home. Across America, state and family budgets are tight, and parents are making difficult decisions regarding what they will have to do without. That is why I was proud to join my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, in passing the Childrenâ�?�?s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act in late January. When President Obama signs this bill into law, it will give the state the resources needed to provide coverage to as many as 6,000 South Dakota children. This legislation is fully paid for, and meets our twin goals of fiscal responsibility and improved child health. During this time of increased economic instability, maintaining health care coverage is imperative. Children covered by Medicaid or CHIP are able to access routine vaccinations, as well as preventive care and screenings. Studies have also found a positive link between CHIP enrollment and improved performance in school, increased attendance and greater ability to pay attention and participate in class. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The success of CHIP can be attributed to its balanced partnership between the federal government and state governments and the flexibility that allows each state to tailor their program to effectively provide health care coverage to low income children. It allows states to address the differences in cost of living across the country while providing strong guidelines so CHIP targets those most in need. My own health experiences have taught me the infinite value of good health insurance and great health care. I voted to create this program in 1997, and I have watched with great satisfaction as the number of uninsured children in our country has dropped. Thanks to CHIP, South Dakota has been able to provide health insurance to about 11,000 kids every month. This new CHIP bill increases that number and makes a commitment to our kids and our communities.