Friday, August 3, 2007

AFSCME Wins on Children's Health Act

In the last two weeks, nearly 10,000 AFSCME members called and emailed Congress urging members to expand health care for children and protect Medicare for seniors.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program was created by President Clinton under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and it allocated about $20 billion over five years to help states bridge the safety net gap for low-income children who are ineligible for Medicaid but still lack private health insurance. It was scheduled to expire on September 30.

Arkansas uses its State Children's Health Insurance Program money to fund the ArKids First, which provides basic insurance coverage for children of families whose income is within 200 percent of the federal poverty level, about $40,000 for a family of four. In the decade since ArKids First was implemented, the percentage of uninsured children in the state has dropped from 23% to 10%. About 90,000 children are covered by ArKids First.

The legislation to extend and expand the program to provide health care coverage for more children passed the U.S. Senate by a 68-31 vote on Thursday. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) both voted for the bill that would add 3 million lower-income children to a popular health insurance program in bipartisan defiance of President Bush's threatened veto. On Wednesday, the bill had passed the House by a vote of 225-204. Arkansas’ three Democratic Congressmen Vic Snyder, Marion Berry, and Mike Ross voted with the majority for passage.

These votes are proof that when AFSCME members fight, we win. A majority of the lawmakers agreed with us and did what we asked them to do for low-income children. "For the amount of money ... that we now spend in Iraq every six months, we can cover an estimated 10 million lower-income children with much-needed health care for five years," Senator Lincoln said

Only Republican Congressman John Boozman (R-AR3) voted against extending state health care coverage for children. "What this appears to be is a first step toward socialized medicine," said Boozman, who objected that the bill would provide health coverage to many middle-class families.

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