The Kids Are Counting On Congress
Published: August 10th, 2007
By: Steven and Cokie Roberts

The kids are counting on Congress

SALINAS, Calif. – Dr. Pablo Romero’s clinic is filled with the happy sounds of healthy kids and pregnant moms – punctuated by the occasional wail from a youngster facing the business end of a syringe. Most of his patients work in the rich lettuce fields and packing sheds that surround this market town, and many can only afford health care for their children under a subsidized insurance program called Healthy Families.

Jointly financed by federal and state money, Healthy Families expires on Sept. 30. It’s designed for the working poor, who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private policies, and Dr. Romero argues that strengthening the program is essential. “We could save a few bucks now,” he says, “but we’ll pay dearly 10 or 20 years down the line.”

Healthy Families is California’s version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (or SCHIP), and back in Washington, Congress is debating its future. The White House has vowed to veto any measure that significantly expands the program, but a brief visit to Dr. Romero’s clinic shows how Bush’s position is misguided.

Caring for kids is the moral thing to do, but it also makes financial sense. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., recently wrote in the Monterey Herald that $1 spent on immunization now saves $13 down he road. Insurance costs less than $100 a month, while a single emergency room visit costs $435.


The Evening Sun

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