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On June 23, I testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, to comment on its comprehensive health reform discussion draft.

On June 23, I testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, to comment on its comprehensive health reform discussion draft. I pressed the Subcommittee on the need for health care reforms that extend affordable and accessible coverage with comprehensive benefits to all children in every state and urged them to simplify enrollment and retention, particularly in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). I applauded a number of the proposals in the discussion draft, like the strong public health insurance option that will force insurance companies to compete and help control costs for consumers and the elimination of preexisting conditions as a basis for denying health coverage.

But my chief concern about the House proposal is its failure to ensure that children will be better off than they are now and that some children are at risk of being worse off. And Congress needs to be especially sensitive to the huge health and wealth disparities among children in communities of color who represent almost two-thirds of all uninsured children.

Earlier this year, Congress passed CHIP Reauthorization legislation to extend health coverage to four million uninsured children, but that was not the real health reform for children. It did not establish a national eligibility floor for all children or give lower income children enrolled in CHIP the same comprehensive benefits to which children in Medicaid are entitled. Now is the time to finish the job and ensure all children a strong and equitable national health safety net.

Ensuring that children get health coverage early to prevent or treat childhood illnesses that could affect them in adulthood is one of the best ways to bend the long-term cost curve. Covering children is not expensive, and yet nine million children in America remain uninsured. To ensure all children get the health coverage they need, I hope you will join me in urging Congress to include the following three assurances for children in any health reform package they pass this year:

Health coverage must be affordable.

The House discussion draft calls for expanding the Medicaid eligibility floor to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This would theoretically expand health coverage to 36 percent of poor uninsured adults and 3.7 million uninsured children if all were able to enroll.

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