Local Push for National Health Reform

Leading child advocacy groups in Texas join state lawmakers and other community leaders here in Houston to urge Congress to enact comprehensive health reform for children. They say the measure must be affordable, simple and seamless. Pat Hernandez has more.

Dr. Bob SanbornWhen Congress convenes next week, lawmakers will take up the issue of health reform legislation. It will seal the fate of millions of uninsured and under-insured children. Those who back the measure gathered at Rice University to tout the benefits for the estimated 1.2 million uninsured children in Texas. Doctor Bob Sanborn is president and CEO of Children at Risk. He realizes that the H1N1 virus will get a lot of attention on the hill.

“There’s no doubt that we need to be diligent about what amounts to a potentially devastating virus and certainly a devastating crisis. But I tell you right now that very similar symptoms exist with the crisis of uninsured children in Houston and in Texas. This is an everyday crisis for many of our parents, for many of our children. We know that swine flu is indeed a problem, but even more real is the threat of children without health insurance, and these parents are worried about this.”

Dr Sanborn says we’re hearing too much from those who are content with the way things are now.

Lan Bentsen chairs the Children's Defense FundLan Bentsen chairs the Children’s Defense Fund.  He says there is a moral and fiscal imperative if change is not enacted.

“And so, to the extent that you lack either, you will not be able to get into the workforce in a self sustaining position, and then you become a net drain instead of a net contributor. And we used to have back in 1979, 14-percent uninsured, and by this chart, it had gone to 24-percent and here we are in Houston looking at 30-percent and health costs went right with it. It’s really not that hard to figure out from the fiscal imperative thing, we cannot afford the model we have now. We must take action.”

State Representative Garnet Coleman says the goals of allowing children to move forward with health reform have not been accomplished.

“The president asked about 30 of us around the country to be involved in something called legislators for health reform. It wasn’t called that in the beginning, it was just a work group. It is a transfer of information, both to affect the plan, and also to help sell the plan. I made the conclusion after this last session of the legislature, that the leadership in the state of Texas, does not believe we should go any further with the coverage that we have for our children. So, the only way to do that is pass it on the national level, because I’m not gonna be in the legislature long enough to see it pass in the state of Texas”

All agree that the economic and social costs are too great to ignore and that Congress must make the investment in children’s health care to ensure that their needs are met.

PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Images credit: George Wong from the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

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