U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Health Association, and Catholic Charities Also Call on Catholics to Urge Federal Leaders to Support SCHIP
WASHINGTON (March 21, 2007)—The leaders of three national Catholic organizations have called on Congress to strengthen and expand a federal health program that provides health insurance coverage for children.
In a letter to the House and Senate Budget Committees, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), and Catholic Charities USA urged Congress to adequately fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) so that all children eligible for the program get health care.
"The SCHIP program was enacted to provide coverage to low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid because their family income is too high," the Catholic organizations wrote. "Over 4 million children have health care coverage through SCHIP. But there are still almost 9 million uninsured children in the United States, over two-thirds of whom are eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but are not enrolled."
In a related action, the three national Catholic organizations, along with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Ladies of Charity United States of America; the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and the Catholic schools of social work are mobilizing Catholics across the country to contact their U.S. representatives and senators on March 21 to support increased funding for children's health insurance coverage through reauthorization of SCHIP.
"Congress has a great opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of our nation's children," the groups said in the joint letter. "We encourage you to do what is necessary to make sure all children have health care coverage." The letter was signed by Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn and chairman of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee; Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of CHA; and Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.
In their letter, the Catholic leaders said that they were encouraged that President Bush's proposed 2008 budget included more funding for children's health care, but said that the proposed $5 billion increase over five years will not be sufficient even to continue coverage for those children now in SCHIP, let alone add more children to the valuable program. It could cost an estimated $60 billion over five years to maintain current enrollment in the program and enroll all eligible children.
In addition, the three major Catholic organizations raised concerns about deep cuts proposed in the president's budget for Medicaid and Medicare over the next five years, and called on Congress to reject any funding reductions in either of these programs that would result in less access by those in need of health care.
"While it is appropriate to look for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs, we urge you to scrutinize these proposals very carefully," the Catholic leaders said in their letter. "For example, much of the proposed Medicaid savings would result not from substantively improving the program but simply by reducing the federal contribution. This could result in low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors facing higher payments for services or even losing coverage altogether. The proposals could also severely threaten the ability of many Catholic hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities to serve their communities, and could further unravel an already frail health care safety net."
The Catholic community is one of the largest, nongovernmental providers of health and human services. Catholic Charities agencies provide help such as good and shelter to nearly 7.5 million people each year, and one in every six Americans receives health care through Catholic health care institutions around the country.
"We consider access to adequate health care to be a basic human right, necessary for the development and maintenance of life and for the ability of human beings to realize the fullness of their dignity," the letter said.