WASHINGTON - May 10 - Washington, D.C. - Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund, today issued the following statement highlighting Cover the Uninsured Week, May 10-14, 2004:
"The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is proud to support and be a part of Cover the Uninsured Week, which is the nation's largest coordinated effort to promote the goal of health insurance coverage for every American. We live in the richest nation on Earth, but our political leaders' inaction has allowed the number of uninsured to grow to more than 44 million people, including 9.3 million children. Covering children should be a major priority, not only because it is a moral imperative, but because it is also a financial imperative. Children who are uninsured receive less medical and preventive care and wind up having a poorer level of health, which results in higher costs to themselves and to the entire American economy over the span of their lifetime. In other words, uninsured children become adults with more persistent, serious, and expensive health concerns that have to be addressed."
Who Are the Uninsured Children?
Race and Ethnicity:
40.3% are White
35.0% are Hispanic
17.9% are Black
4.0% are Asian or Pacific Islander
1.6% are of more than one race
1.2% are American Indian or Alaskan Native
87.3% have at least one working parent
66.8% have at least one parent who works full-time throughout the year
69.5% live in families with incomes above poverty
53.2% live in a 2-parent household
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 2003. Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Calculations by the Childrens Defense Fund.
"The numbers of the uninsured that will be cited and debated this week need to be put into a simple and compelling message: When it comes to the uninsured, it is no longer a matter of separating us from them. With very little notice, any of "us" could abruptly find ourselves joining "them" in the ranks of the uninsured. During the recent economic downturn, many Americans became all too familiar with how susceptible they are to this worrisome trend. Almost one in five American workers (18 percent) was laid off during the last three years, and 40 percent of all unemployed adults are uninsured. Children are now vulnerable no matter what the employment status of their parents or guardian might be. According to CDF calculations, almost nine out of ten uninsured children live in working families.
Many children of unemployed workers, as well as the workers themselves, are not eligible for Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or any other public or private coverage option. Inexplicably, approximately six million out of the 9.3 million uninsured children are eligible to get insurance through Medicaid or CHIP but are not enrolled in these programs. That is unacceptable. By working aggressively to enroll all eligible, uninsured children in Medicaid and CHIP right now, more children will have a healthy start in life.
For all of us who want to end the national scandal of allowing over 44 million people to be without coverage, the challenge is finding a way to discuss our health care crisis not as the problem of the uninsured, but as the problem every American facesthanks to the constant threat of losing coverage either because costs are spiraling out of control or the threat of being laid off. Spreading and emphasizing this message is the key to mobilizing a critical mass of people who currently have insurance to demand universal health coverage. In the absence of such a mobilization, I fear that the well-intentioned policy efforts of advocates and academics on behalf of the cause will continue to fall short of the mark. I hope the activities that occur throughout communities in our country to promote Cover the Uninsured Week will spark a powerful movement to insure ALL Americans with access to affordable, high quality health care. We should not rest until our goal of providing health coverage to 100 percent of Americans, including every single child, is finally met. Then and only then, will we have a healthier, more equitable, and more productive society."
For more information about Cover the Uninsured Week, please go to: www.covertheuninsured.org