Health care for children

Insurance: Senate plan to cut coverage to low- and moderate-income families is a bad idea.

June 02, 2000

TOO RICH but too poor. That's the fate of 11 million American children without decent health care.

These children come from families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid benefits but don't work for employers that provide medical benefits. Trips to the doctor for ear infections and routine treatments are expensive.

Often, children go without preventive care. They get no treatment until they end up in hospital emergency rooms.

Government has made progress in closing the health gap. States have provided basic coverage for 2 million previously uninsured young people since the state-federal initiative began in 1997.

But now, a Senate appropriations bill threatens to stop the momentum. It would revoke $1.9 billion allocated to states to cover an additional 2 million children.

Congress cannot let that happen.

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee want to rescind the money allotted two years ago. The successful health insurance program is the wrong place to cut. This comes at a time when states such as Maryland seek to cover more uninsured children.

Maryland children are eligible for health benefits if a family of four's income is $34,100 or less. State officials planned to use money already allotted to cover families earning up to $51,150 a year. Higher earners would pay increasingly higher premiums.

A pledge by Republican leaders to restore the money in 2003 is not reassuring.

Congress should keep its commitment to children of working families who are left out of the health-coverage loop. Those kids need a spending plan that sends more of them to the doctor's office and fewer to the emergency room.

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