Increase In Funding Would Extend Insurance Coverage To Thousands

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Congressman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, joined healthcare workers, doctors, families and community advocates Saturday to support increased funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which could provide coverage to millions of uninsured children.

"Every child in California and throughout America should be guaranteed high quality health care," said Stark, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. "Expanding SCHIP is the bare minimum of what we should be doing to improve our broken health care system. As costs rise and employers drop coverage, health coverage is becoming unaffordable for many families. We must at least provide a health care safety net for children who are our country's future."

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SCHIP, called Healthy Families in California, offers affordable health coverage for near-poor and moderate income families who don't qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. Last year, 1.39 million children in California had coverage through Healthy Families -- but almost as many, 1.36 million, remain uninsured.

"As representatives of front-line healthcare workers, we know firsthand how important SCHIP is to millions of families," said Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West. "There are 9 million uninsured children in the United States, and every day our workers see parents who are worried they will have to choose between taking care of their sick child and paying the rent. The best gift we can give to mothers this Mother's Day is the certainty that their children can get the healthcare they need when they need it."

Congress has included $50 billion in new SCHIP funding in both Senate and House budget resolutions. Rep. Stark is working to ensure that this funding makes it all the way into the final federal budget. Should that funding be approved, it would mean approximately $6.9 billion in new funding for California children over the next five years.

"We often treat children who don't get regular checkups, because their families cannot afford health insurance," said Ruth Kees, a lab technician who has worked at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland for 30 years. "By the time these kids come to the hospital, they're very sick. If they had regular checkups, they would have been treated much earlier. That's why it is so important that they have access to coverage through this program."

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