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"Cover the Uninsured Week" Focuses on Kids

posted on:  4/19/2007     revised: 3/9/2010


Each year I do what I can to promote the goals of "Cover The Uninsured Week". This year the project runs from April 23-29, 2007 with a number of events planned nationwide1. Robert Wood Foundation sponsors the event that has an impressive list of past accomplishments and this program has undoubtedly done a lot of good for our country in the past.

This year I have less enthusiasm toward the project because the campaign chose to focus on the issue of insuring kids. Not that I have anything against helping kids, nor would anyone be opposed to the concept that all of the children in this country should have access to health care. My objection stems from the fact that providing insurance for children is not representative of the challenges of the overall uninsured problem in America and, secondly, that the motivation to focus on insurance for children appears to be politically timed. I object to the project's failure to recognize that coverage for 100% of our population - whether for children or adults - is not possible in a society that also embraces individual freedom of choice.

A decade ago Congress created the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover the children of modest income families. The program has been very successful but lately the state agencies that administer the program are finding difficulty giving their free health insurance to the remaining estimated 9 million uninsured children in this country. Apparently no one knows for sure why some people do not enroll for free health insurance even with massive promotions in our schools, on television and even multi-lingual publications in targeted minority markets. Additional efforts to advertise and promote the insurance program are likely to have little effect in expanding its reach.

Funding for the national SCHIP program expires this year so the Robert Wood Foundation is spending millions of dollars lobbying for continued Congressional support. My guess is that if this money had been spent directly for health care for uninsured children, the net results would be better.

Next year I hope that Cover The Uninsured Week gets back to the core of the problem - educating working adults about the availability of affordable health insurance programs2. This is the goal that can produce real results. If is time to give up on the un-American notion that we can push everyone to voluntarily enroll in a health insurance program - even if the insurance is free. We need to accept the fact that in a free democratic society there will always be some small percentage of people who will not have health insurance. Let's focus on those who would voluntarily enroll rather than continue to throw money at those who opt to not participate.


1For unrelated personal reasons, I am not actively participating in any programs this year but will continue to promote such events in various publications.

2These insurance programs exclude coverage for the relatively small portion of the working population (or  people who are otherwise financially solvent) who have chronic medical problems but do not qualify for Medicaid programs. This serious issue is outside the scope of this article.


keywords:   State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), uninsured


related topics: State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) consumer Web sites






Copyright 2010 by Tony Novak. Originally produced and published for the "AskTony" column syndication prior to 2007. Edited and independently republished by the author in March 2010. All rights reserved.