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Renewed child health law to aid immigrants

Eduardo A. de Oliveira | 2/11/2009, 4:42 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R.-Calif., said the children’s health program was “slowly replacing employer health plans with government-paid health plans, with spiraling costs to taxpayers.”

Funding for the bill, estimated at more than $32 billion over four and a half years, will come from an increase in tobacco taxes.

Homer of the NICHQ acknowledges that there is concern over increasing government-run health services too rapidly. He brushed aside the idea of a single-payer system.

“The focus should be more on making sure we cover everyone in the country rather than the administrative aspect of the care we provide,” Homer said.

Jones agrees that a middle-of-the-road solution, combining private and public coverage, can be achieved.

“But we have to be careful,” he added. “In the national dialogue, people don’t talk about health reform in terms of pragmatism, but ideology.”

For Jones, shared responsibility works for individuals “who make sure they are not drunk all the time, but also for governments that must guarantee that someone with the misfortune of having liver disease will be able to receive quality treatment.”

To pay for his son’s cancer treatment, Samuel Goncalves’ father had to pay to extend his private insurance. The best he could get was coverage for 80 percent of Samuel’s much-needed $180,000 tumor removal surgery. That placed a real strain on the entire family. The Goncalveses are still struggling to pay a $50,000 bill, the balance they owe for Samuel’s treatment.

“Anybody who uses a child as a wedge issue is playing dirty,” Jones said. “A child didn’t ask to be here, a child is not in the position of making critical decisions.”

Despite the Obama administration’s success in expanding SCHIP, further health reform measures may be more difficult to achieve.

“The rapidity with which Democrats managed to reauthorize SCHIP should not be taken as a sign that it will be easy to pass broader proposals for expanding coverage to other uninsured populations,” John K. Iglehart, a national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote after the bill’s signing.

“Democrats saw the SCHIP measure as unfinished business from the 110th Congress. Moving on to more ambitious reforms will be more difficult, given the rapidly increasing federal deficit, the competing claims for federal resources, and the determination of Republicans to forestall the growth of public insurance,” Iglehart added.

Nevertheless, Obama believes that a major health care initiative must be “intimately woven into our overall economic recovery plan.” As he has said, health care reform is “not something that we can put off because we are in an emergency. This is part of the emergency.”