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Bill changes could leave more kids uninsured

McKeon wants underprivileged children helped first

Posted: January 23, 2009 8:51 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2009 1:30 p.m.

About 20,000 underprivileged children in the 25th Congressional district, including some in the Santa Clarita Valley, are being deprived of the health care promised in a program set up more than a decade ago, Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon said Friday.

House Democrats made changes then passed a proposed federal act which was meant to provide health insurance coverage for children living near the poverty line, McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said.

"They wanted to cover more middle-class children," he said about changes that would include a broader group than what was initially identified in the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"Right now there are a million kids in California who would qualify, including 20,000 kids in our district," McKeon said, adding some children have received much-needed health insurance but many more are still in need.

"My fear is that we keep using this bill to provide for people not originally intended to get it. It was originally intended for the poor children and for working moms who couldn't afford insurance," he said.

But McKeon claims the Jan. 14 changes made to H.R. 2 Children's Health Insurance Program changed its proposed affect.

"I'd like to see it (SCHIP money) go to those who were originally intended - all the kids at the poverty level including one million in California - before it's used for anything else," McKeon said.

Stretching east from Santa Clarita Valley and through Lancaster and Palmdale to the Nevada border and north to Mono Lake, California's 25th Congressional District takes in more than 21,600 square miles.

An estimated 639,000 people live in the district.

"House Democrats chose to put politics first and voted to expand SCHIP far beyond its original intent, and for that reason I had to oppose the legislation in its current form," McKeon said in a statement.

In the late '90s, SCHIP was enacted with the support of both political parties.

The program worked with Medicaid to increase the number of low-income children helped by expanding eligibility and simplifying the application process.

Since SCHIP was set up, however, there have been many modifications.

McKeon calls the decade-long process "the big fight."

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured revised its findings in November, and now estimates that 9 million children remain uninsured in the United States.

Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, runs the private operating commission focusing on major health care issues.


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