DHN to House Commerce Cmte: Keep SCHIP Strong

July 24, 2007

The Honorable John Dingell, Chairman
The Honorable Joe Barton, Ranking Member CC: All Committee Members
House Energy and Commerce Committee
2125

Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Dingell and Ranking Member Barton,

As members of the faith community, we want to commend you for making children’s health coverage a top priority this year and urge you to craft a strong SCHIP reauthorization bill that moves our country toward covering all children. SCHIP has played a key role in expanding children’s health insurance coverage and improving the health of low-income children. This year’s reauthorization offers an important opportunity to build on this success.

Representing a broad range of faith traditions, we share a common belief in the sacred obligation to care for all of God’s children and ensure they have access to the care they need to become healthy and productive members of society. This is a shared responsibility with roles for individuals, families, communities and government at all levels, but one in which the Congress now has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. By supporting $50 billion in new funding for SCHIP in the congressional budget resolution, Congress took an important first step toward a strong SCHIP reauthorization. The Finance Committee must now act to ensure the full use of these resources to increase both the number of children served by SCHIP and improve the quality of coverage they receive. To this end, we believe that SCHIP reauthorization must:

  • Fulfill the commitment of at least $50 billion over 5 years in new funding. This amount is the minimum needed to maintain current coverage, reach out to children already eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but not currently covered, and to begin expanding coverage to all children.

  • Include new tools, options, and supports for states to cover more children. Express Lane Eligibility and other enrollment/renewal simplifications, options to cover pregnant women and legal immigrant children and pregnant women, and financial incentives for states to increase outreach would help reach and retain more eligible children.

  • Provide comprehensive benefits. All medically necessary services, including mental health and dental care should be included in SCHIP coverage.

  • Do NO harm to coverage. Medicaid should not be weakened in any way to finance improvements in SCHIP and states that have expanded income eligibility and chosen to cover parents as a way of reaching more children should not be undermined.

Since SCHIP was enacted in 1997, it has, in combination with Medicaid, succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured children by one-third despite rising health care costs and declines in employer-based coverage. But, with 9 million children still lacking health insurance and unable to access the care they need, it is clear that more needs to be done. Our faith compels us to continue to proclaim the fundamental right of every person to quality, affordable health coverage. As a step toward achieving that vision, we urge you to support a strong SCHIP reauthorization in line with the principles listed above. We stand ready to work with you and support faithful action to fulfill our obligations to our children and the nation’s future.

Sincerely,

American Friends Service Committee

Church Women United

The Episcopal Church

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Institute Justice Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Presbyterian Church (USA) Washington Office

Union for Reform Judaism

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

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