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California to Cover All Children, Expand Health Coverage for Adults

Faith Leaders Hail Largest Expansion of Children's Health Coverage in a Decade

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's expected announcement of a plan to cover all children in California caps a two-year campaign by faith leaders from the PICO network and health groups to win health insurance for the more than 750,000 uninsured children in the state. The plan would be the largest expansion in access to children's coverage since Congress passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997.

"This is a great victory for California children and families. It shows the way forward to covering all children in the nation when Congress takes up reauthorization of the SCHIP program," said Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, a PICO leader and the Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in San Jose.

Religious leaders kicked off the campaign to cover all children in California on April 14, 2005 at a 4,200-person town hall meeting organized by the California chapter of the national faith-based PICO network. After Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed children's health legislation, PICO's California state network of 20 faith organizations and 400 congregations collected 86,000 signatures for a tobacco tax that included funding for children's health. When tobacco companies defeated the ballot initiative, religious leaders and health care advocates from the 100% campaign flooded the Governor's office with calls to fulfill his pledge to cover all children through legislation (see http://www.fulfillthepledge.org/).

"Providing for the least among us is at the core of our faith values," said Rev. Mathews.

Next up for religious leaders in the PICO network is Congress, which is about to take up reauthorization of the SCHIP program, which covers six million children. SCHIP has been so successful that 36 states, including California, face looming shortfalls in federal funding. PICO is working with health care organizations to press Congress to include enough funding in the SCHIP reauthorization to accomplish the goal of all children in the United States having access to affordable health coverage by 2012.

PICO's one thousand congregations are organizing letter writing campaigns and town hall meetings in 80 Congressional Districts and planning a large faith and families summit on children's health in Washington, DC March 6-8. A 2004 Roper Poll found that 81 percent of Americans support the federal government providing health coverage to uninsured children. The governors of 4 of the 6 six largest states have announced plans to cover all children.

"The reality is that many parents in my community and across the country cannot afford family coverage at work," said Rev. Mathews. "As faith- communities we need to stand with working families to make sure they get the support they need to raise healthy children. Congress needs to understand that from a moral standpoint affordable coverage to all children is non- negotiable."

PICO is a national network of 53 faith-based federations and 1,000 religious congregations working to improve communities in 150 cities and 18 states. PICO's San Jose affiliate, People Acting in Community Together led the grassroots effort in 2000 to create the first program in the nation to provide seamless access to health coverage to all children in Santa Clara County, CA.

Source: PICO

Copyright (2007) PRNewswire.com. All rights reserved.

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