Good morning. I'm Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes Foundation.
The March of Dimes is a nonpartisan organization with a long and proud history stretching over 70 years. We work hard to save the smallest and sickest of newborns and children and equally hard to prevent childhood health problems in the first place.
Because our work is completely linked with access to quality healthcare, the March of Dimes steadfastly supports the bipartisan Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.
We believe it is critical to provide health coverage to 10 million children.
According to the Institutes of Medicine, health insurance is the single most important factor in determining whether or not a child receives needed healthcare. Every child needs preventive care. It helps them become healthy, productive adults.
For medically fragile children, such as the half-million babies preterm every year and who require costly care in neonatal intensive care units and have complex medical needs throughout childhood, for these preemies, coverage is truly a matter of life and death, not to mention a matter of families' financial survival.
One of the reasons that we so steadfastly support this particular bill is that it is overwhelmingly supported by bipartisan majorities in Congress and among the March of Dimes' three million volunteers nationwide are individuals from both ends of the political spectrum and everywhere in between.
As a result, we have valued relationships with members on both sides of the aisle in Congress. This is certainly evidenced by our work to help develop the CHIP reauthorization and secure its passage in Congress.
Let me tell you two more reasons why we specifically support the CHIP Reauthorization Act. First, pregnant women. This bill gives states a new option to cover pregnant women who meet the program's income guidelines.
Maternity care allows health providers to detect and manage conditions early, often preventing more serious health consequences. Coverage for the full spectrum of maternity care services, prenatal through postpartum care, improves the health of both mothers and their babies.
Number two, quality. It seems to enhance the quality of healthcare that all children receive. The CHIP reauthorization bill calls for the development of a core set of pediatric performance measures and enhanced reporting on the quality of care provided in CHIP and Medicaid.
Such quality efforts have long been underway for adults. It is time for our children's healthcare to receive that same attention.
I know there are some who oppose the CHIP Reauthorization Act because they see it as an expansion of government-run healthcare. This is an unfortunate misconception.
In fact, 77 percent of current CHIP enrollees are covered by private managed care health plans that contract with states.
In addition, the CHIP Reauthorization Act will provide states with more opportunities to use CHIP dollars to help purchase private coverage.
The work of the March of Dimes touches every born in America. We do not consider children's health a partisan issue. It's every family's issue and worry.
That's why the March of Dimes stands ready to work with all members of Congress and the president to enact strong CHIP reauthorization legislation that will provide needed health coverage to pregnant women, infants and children in families of the working poor.
This is Dr. Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes Foundation.