“Our children first.”
That’s a pretty straightforward statement, and one that the Herald newsroom has tagged for a yearlong project aimed at improving public awareness of the challenges -– and opportunities -- facing Manatee County's children.
In today’s Sunday Herald, you’ll find the latest chapter on 1A, and it focuses on health insurance. How timely. The clock is running out on federal funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP.
The program has become a political football between an encouragingly unified Congress and President Bush. He reiterated in his weekly address yesterday that he plans to veto pending legislation -- supported by Democrats and many of his fellow Republicans -- that expands SCHIP. The bill would more than double the $25 billion program, adding $35 billion over the next five years. It calls for raising the federal tobacco tax to $1 a pack to finance the expansion.
Herald reporter Tiffany St. Martin reports today that as many as 750,000 children are uninsured in Florida. That number is nearing 9 million throughout the country, the U.S. Census estimates.
On the Herald’s opinion pages (10-11C) today, two of Manatee County's elected representatives -– both Republicans -– joined pens to write in support of expanding SCHIP. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan voted for the House version of the bill. State Rep. Bill Galvano chairs the Healthy Families Committee in the Florida House and sponsored the KidCare reform legislation this year. The Children’s Health program, they write, “gives kids from low-income families access to the care and medicine they need to live healthy lives.”
As some argue over the danger that this is moving toward "universal" or "socialized" medicine, thousands of our children are living without that guaranteed access to health care.
We hope the Herald's continued coverage will spark at least discussion, if not prompt more calls for action.
We need to hear from you about how we can work together to make “Our Children First” a success. Add your thoughts here in our blog’s comments, or send me an e-mail. And if you are interested in joining a Herald-sponsored focus group for “Our Children First,” raise your hand. We hope to have the first meeting within a few weeks.