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Healthcare or Hatespeech? SCHIP Early Test for GOP

by Frank Sharry on 01/13/2009 at 3:42pm

Doctors check littlest patientThis week the House is will vote on reauthorizing the State Children’s
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
, and the Senate Finance Committee will
take up much-needed companion legislation to help more Latino and immigrant
children access health care. Besides being the right thing to do, and
even the fiscally responsible thing to do
, this legislation will be a
watershed moment for the GOP.

The Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act (ICHIA) bill would
eliminate the five year wait legal immigrant children must currently endure
before qualifying for health coverage.  Republicans now face a unique opportunity
to challenge the perception that they are anti-immigrant by passing it. 

Just
yesterday, President
Bush admitted
that it “may be” fair to say that Republicans “don’t like
immigrants-” or at least that they’re seen as such. From his final press
conference
in office yesterday: 

BUSH: Take, for
example, the immigration debate. That’s obviously a highly contentious issue. And the problem with the initial
outcome of the debate was some people said, “well, Republicans don’t like
immigrants.” Now, that may be fair or unfair, but that’s the image that
came out
. And if, you know, the image is “we don’t like
immigrants,” then there’s probably someone else out there saying,
“well, if they don’t like immigrants, they probably don’t like me as
well.”

Can
we expect less rabble-rousing on immigration from Lou Dobbs and his posse?
Unlikely, but by allowing legal immigrant children the access to the critical
health care that they deserve, the GOP will be taking a step in the right
direction. Yesterday’s New York Times
quotes Jennifer Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at NCLR:

“Children should not
be forced to wait five years for health care,” said Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a
health policy specialist at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights
group. “Five years is a lifetime to a child.”

Will
the GOP rise to meet the challenge head on, or will they continue to appease
the most extreme elements among their ranks by resorting to demonizing
immigrant children and pregnant women? 

If
they do the latter, they risk becoming a regional
party
for decades to come. 

Our
country has demanded change and the results of the 2008 election were clear.
The American public is looking for solutions to tough problems, not more of the
same.   We hope that the GOP has taken notice of this new reality and
will rise above hateful rhetoric to do what is right for our country.  The
political survival of their Party, not to mention the health of our nation’s
children, depends on it.

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