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Catholic Charities USA Calls on Congress and the President to Protect

.- Catholic Charities USA today urged Congress and the White House to avoid partisan positioning and instead come together to pass a comprehensive children's health insurance bill.

This week, the Congress is scheduled to vote on a compromise bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, (SCHIP) a highly successful program that provides health insurance coverage to poor children. The program will expire on September 30 unless legislation is passed and signed to continue it, but President Bush has threatened to veto the compromise bill.

"Taking care of children without health coverage should not be a partisan issue," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "The compromise bill is a good step forward that will strengthen this critical program, provide more money for SCHIP, and expand eligibility to several million more of the 9 million children living without health insurance in this country.

"We strongly urge Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate to support SCHIP and to provide health insurance for more children in need," Father Snyder added. "Passage of this legislation is the right thing to do for America.

"It would be unconscionable if the White House and Congress weakened this valuable program- leaving millions of children without health coverage- when everyone agrees that the program works," Father Snyder said. "That is wrong, and it sends the wrong message about our nation's values."

In addition, Father Snyder sent a letter to President Bush urging him to sign the legislation.

"We are extremely disappointed that the president-just last week-reiterated his intent to veto this bi-partisan bill," Father Snyder said in a letter. "Mr. President, we call on you to keep your promise to America's children and sign this bill into law."

Catholic Charities USA is one of the nation's largest private networks of over 1,500 social service agencies and institutions providing essential services to more than 7.8 million people annually, and many Catholic Charities agencies provide critical health services to thousands of low-income families.

Catholic Charities has launched a Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America with the goal of cutting the poverty rate in half by 2020, and supports SCHIP as an essential program to ensure access to proper health care for millions of the nation's most vulnerable families.

"Catholic social teaching tells us that every person has a basic human right to adequate health care.  Society has a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to health care, to protect the dignity of the human person and ensure the common good," Father Snyder wrote. "Now is the time for our country to recommit itself to our children."

Catholic Charities said the President should follow through on a campaign promise to help uninsured children.

"At the 2004 Republican National Convention, you vowed to "lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not enrolled in government health insurance programs."  The number of uninsured children continues to rise," Father Snyder wrote. "We ask that you keep your promise to the well-being of children in our
country."

In his letter, Snyder also asked that the Administration reconsider new restrictions recently imposed on the program by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that will reduce services to children.

"Over the past decade, SCHIP has helped reduce the number of uninsured children by one-third and has made significant progress in advancing the health and well-being of America's low income children," Father Snyder wrote. "Under the new rules, thousands of children will be dropped from coverage.  At the time that their health coverage is restricted, many of these children could be depending on medications that must be taken regularly, waiting to undergo necessary medical procedures, or scheduled for checkups that can prevent serious health crisis."

For more information, visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.

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