Health insurance tops the list of concerns for many if not most Pennsylvania families. As the cost of coverage rises faster than most incomes, some working families are finding themselves in a crisis situation. How will they afford insurance coverage, especially for their children?
Currently Governor Edward G. Rendell’s budget proposal for the 2006-2007 fiscal year calls for an additional $14.6 million in state and federal funds to offer health insurance to more children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Pennsylvania’s CHIP provides insurance coverage to children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medical Assistance. According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, one in three Pennsylvania children is enrolled in CHIP or receives Medical Assistance, but there are more than 133,000 who remain uninsured. Officials say one reason many of these children remain uninsured is their parents do not realize that they qualify for CHIP. Another reason is income limits.
The “Cover All Kids” proposal would expand CHIP to all uninsured children in Pennsylvania regardless of the income level of the parents or guardians. Premiums will vary from no-cost for families with lower incomes to a small monthly premium for working families.
The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children say children who have health insurance are more likely to be immunized, receive regular check-ups and get prompt treatment for common childhood ailments, such as ear infections and asthma. Children who have health insurance are less likely to use costly emergency room services for common ailments treated by a primary care physician; and, children with health insurance do better in school as they are more likely to avoid preventable childhood illnesses.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Care Association (PCHA) support the legislation and urge concerned citizens to contact legislators to ask them to vote in favor of the proposal.
“Caring for the sick is one of the core ministries of the Catholic faith, especially children,” said Dr. Robert J. O’Hara, executive director of the PCC. “Expanding CHIP to reach more families is good investment.”
“Catholic health care systems have a long history of serving those in need,” said Sr. Clare Christi Schiefer, OSF, president of the PCHA. “The Catholic health care ministry is committed to providing quality health care to all people. Securing health care coverage for children helps us reach this goal.” She says the mission of Catholic health ministry, in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, “calls us to be distinguished through ‘service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination.’ We must preserve and strengthen these programs, while at the same time work toward a future of accessible and affordable health care for all.”
Concerned citizens are encouraged to voice their support for expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Contact information for legislators is in the local telephone directory, or citizens can directly e-mail legislators simply using their zip code by logging on to pacatholic.org.
PCC Column June 2006 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.