Health Care CEOs Support Covering Uninsured Children as 'Moral Imperative'

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Children's Health Insurance

Religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths will join heads of area health systems, representatives of Governor Granholm, and other dignitaries at a media briefing and Interfaith Health Summit Monday to kick off Cover the Uninsured Week and to demonstrate support for the reauthorization and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and now in its fifth year, Cover the Uninsured Week is the largest movement in American history to mobilize citizens to seek solutions for the nearly 45 million Americans who are uninsured.

State Children's Health Insurance Program -- which is called MIChild in Michigan -- provides health coverage to kids whose parents work but are not offered health coverage through their jobs and cannot afford to purchase it on their own. Families whose children are eligible for MIChild pay $10 a month per child for coverage. During the Interfaith Health Summit, faith leaders and community members will receive information and tools to enroll eligible children in MIChild.

At Monday's event, a special grant of $50,000 will be awarded by Trinity Health to the Interfaith Health & Hope Coalition, a non-profit collaborative of more than 100 diverse faith leaders in the Detroit metro area that is addressing health care concerns among the uninsured and underinsured through health ministries in local churches, synagogues and mosques. Special guests at the Summit include Dr. John Lumpkin, vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; keynote speaker Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.; and Janet Olszewski, Michigan Department of Community Health.

This year, Cover the Uninsured Week comes at a critical time. Enacted in 1997, SCHIP must be reauthorized by Congress this year in order to continue. If America's leaders fail to renew and sufficiently fund SCHIP, millions of children who desperately need health insurance will remain uninsured and without adequate health care.

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"Covering kids is a critical step toward covering all Americans. That's why events are being held to highlight the success of children's coverage programs and stress the need for these programs to be fully funded," says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "For five years, volunteers have responded to Cover the Uninsured Week by helping to enroll eligible children in SCHIP (MIChild in Michigan), administering preventive care, and providing assistance to businesses that want to help workers cover their families. At the same time, we have raised awareness among millions of people who were unaware of the extent and depth of this crisis. Solving it is now near the top of the political agenda for our elected leaders and presidential candidates, which is right where it belongs."

According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 45 million Americans have no health insurance, including roughly 9 million children.

"State Children's Health Insurance Program is truly one of America's great success stories about how we can take care of our own. Today, SCHIP covers 6 million kids. And here in Michigan, nearly 35,000 children receive health coverage thanks to Michigan's SCHIP program, MI Child," says Dr. John Lumpkin, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "This is a defining moment for health coverage. SCHIP is due for reauthorization this year. Congress has the immediate opportunity to provide sufficient funds for SCHIP to cover more uninsured children."

Thousands of people will participate April 23-29 in hundreds of Cover the Uninsured Week events across the country. Major events in Michigan include the April 23 Interfaith Health Summit and a special forum titled Broadening the Net: A Press Briefing & Policy Forum on the Uninsured to be held Thursday, April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the NextEnergy Center in Tech Town.

Cover the Uninsured Week is a non-partisan effort sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Partners in the effort include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Healthcare Leadership Council, AARP, United Way of America, American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Families USA, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Service Employees International Union, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, The California Endowment and W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves.

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