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Keeping kids insured: CHIP shows how bipartisanship can solve problems

Resource type: News

Pittsburgh Post Gazette | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

Author Bruce Lesley is President of First Focus, an Atlantic grantee through the Children & Youth programme in the United States. 

by Bruce Lesley

Three years ago, a bill to extend and improve the Children’s Health Insurance Program became law. On Feb. 4, 2009, we decided as a nation to protect and invest in the health of our children. Among the Pennsylvanians to whom we owe thanks are Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Republican Reps. Jim Gerlach, Tim Murphy and Glenn Thompson.

Many Pennsylvania families have lost health insurance in recent years as parents lost their jobs. But even though 173,000 Pennsylvania children now live with at least one unemployed parent, the number of uninsured children in Pennsylvania has actually gone down. The bottom line: CHIP works for kids, their families and the state of Pennsylvania.

This was no accident. Pennsylvania lawmakers decided three years ago to protect children against becoming uninsured when their parents lose jobs, through CHIP and Medicaid. Thanks to their leadership, when hard-working families face tough times, children can still get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and focused in school. And because health care costs are a big driver of bankruptcies and foreclosures, covering kids through CHIP and Medicaid helps families hang on until they can get back on their feet. CHIP also brings federal funds into Pennsylvania’s economy, protecting jobs in doctors’ offices and hospitals.

It’s just common sense to keep kids healthy. With CHIP, a little girl can keep her asthma under control with check-ups and an inhaler that cost just a few hundred dollars a year. But if she’s uninsured and just one full-blown asthma attack requires hospitalization, the costs quickly jump into the thousands. And if her parents are unemployed, we all pay — through higher insurance premiums to offset hospital costs for uncompensated care.

CHIP is a bipartisan idea created by a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democratic president to cover America’s uninsured children. Its success is a testament to the idea that, when our leaders stop pointing fingers, we can solve real problems for real people.

Let’s celebrate that success by thanking Sen. Casey and Reps. Gerlach, Murphy and Thompson for their leadership in protecting Pennsylvania kids and families from the worst effects of a bad economy.

Bruce Lesley is president of First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. (

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