There is no population that we have a greater responsibility to lead, guide, educate and protect than our nation's children. That is why working to ensure that every child has access to high quality health care has always been my mission. Standing on the sidelines while the health care coverage of millions of low and moderate income children is put in jeopardy is something that we at the NAACP just won't do. Not now. Not ever.
Millions of low and moderate income children who are currently covered by the federally funded health insurance program known as CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) are at risk of losing their health care if Congress does not take action and soon. If CHIP legislation is not renewed, there will be no new funding for the program after September 30, 2015 and the health care of millions of children could hang in the balance. We need Congress to act and act quickly.
The NAACP has always stood on the front lines for children and has championed CHIP for nearly two decades. Before there was a public health program specifically aimed at addressing the unique health needs of children, the NAACP worked tirelessly with a broad coalition of civil rights and human rights organizations and lawmakers to pass the first CHIP legislation in 1997.
For 17 years, CHIP has given hard working families the security of knowing their children had access to high quality health care. During tough economic times, families have relied on CHIP to get their children the preventive care they need to stay healthy.
Extending funding for CHIP will make sure that the children and pregnant women who rely on CHIP's care and services are able to keep their health care coverage. Furthermore, researchers have found that children who have health insurance perform better in school than children who are uninsured. Children covered by CHIP are more likely to complete high school, as well as attend and complete college. Healthier children miss fewer days of school, perform better on tests, are more focused in class, and have higher self-esteem.
Since CHIP's creation, the rate of uninsured children has decreased by half and is now at a record low. The popular federal-state partnership is a lifeline for millions of children in low and moderate income families. Even in the post-Affordable Care Act (ACA) world, CHIP remains a critical piece in the foundation of health coverage options for children.
CHIP has strong bipartisan roots and was developed as a state-federal partnership that gives governors broad flexibility to design their programs to target the needs of their youth populations. Congress must not gamble with our children's future. Action on CHIP is needed as soon as possible. No child should go without health care -- and they won't have to if Congress acts now.