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News > Speeches
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Jan 23, 2007
Governor Blanco calls for universal health insurance to children; Remarks to the 11th Annual Healthcare Conference

Good morning.

More than 90,000 children in Louisiana live without the benefit of health insurance.

90,000 children whose failure to access dependable early childhood primary and preventive care threatens their lifelong learning and earning potential.

That's right.  This isn't just a health care problem.  Failure to get these children access to health care impacts our educational rankings, our poverty levels and our mortality rates.
A sick child can't learn.  Our children have no chance of academic success if they are at home sick or worse, trying to concentrate in class. 

A sick adult can't earn.  Failure to excel academically hinders an adult's earning potential and leads to the unacceptable levels of poverty that have plagued Louisiana for generations.

We all want Louisiana people to be successful and prosperous. 

We all want to change the direction of the national statistics that rank Louisiana last again and again.

That future can only be accomplished by making investments, today, in our children.
Our education and economic development investments will only succeed when we've first expended resources on improving the health of our children.

Today I want to talk about the next phase of health care reform that I will be pushing ....a project that is garnering momentum around the country and an effort that will position Louisiana as a national leader.

When I took office three years ago I elevated health care reform to the highest priority within my administration.

Since then we've improved administrative efficiencies within the Medicaid program, required pay-for- performance for our providers, saved the program's pharmaceutical budget millions of dollars and expanded options for long-term care services for the elderly and those living with disabilities.

Louisiana is a national leader in medical information technology and our immunization electronic records program - LINKS - saved Louisiana and out of state providers millions of dollars in services for Louisiana Medicaid patients following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But it is our work for the children of Louisiana that offers us the best hope for improving Louisiana's competitiveness with other progressive states.

Until recently our schools and communities were some of the most unhealthy places for children.

That is why I supported eliminating unhealthy foods from vending machines in schools.  Obesity is an underlying cause of many chronic diseases and a major driver of the growth in health care spending.  Childhood obesity is a growing problem.  By establishing healthy eating habits in our children at a young age, we hope to see those habits result in lower rates of obesity now and later in life.  

As a result of our Louisiana Synar Initiative, we are among the top states in the country in limiting tobacco sales to minors in retail establishments.  The current non-compliance rate for tobacco sales to minors is 4.7%. This is the lowest rate to date for Louisiana.

Louisiana now has 56 school based health centers and there are 11 planning sites that are anticipated to be operational by fiscal year 2008.  These centers are a way to get more necessary physical and behavioral health care to children.

And finally, getting our children healthier is why I charged Dr. Cerise and the Department of Health and Hospitals with increasing outreach and enrollment for LaCHIP eligible children. 

As a result, Louisiana enrolled an additional 55,000 children and decreased the number of uninsured children from 11 percent to 7.6 percent pre-Katrina.  A major achievement for Louisiana. Indeed, our uninsured rate for low-income children is among the 10 lowest in the country.

But there is more we must do.

Now is the best opportunity for delivering universal insurance coverage to our state's children.

This will be accomplished by first ensuring that every child eligible for LaCHIP is enrolled, either in CHIP or in private insurance.   

This coverage expansion for children is both a combination of full utilization of our state-federal CHIP program and setting the expectation that parents will provide coverage for their children - an expectation that the majority of Louisiana's parents already meet.

We'll look at catching eligible children as they enter school and make it as easy as possible for our working parents to take advantage of this program.

With so many children eligible but not enrolled we must do something proactive to capture these children and provide the primary and preventive care that will improve their overall health outcomes.  About 75% of the 90,000 children uninsured are eligible for LaChip. 
By just capturing this population we've almost reached our goal for universal coverage. 

A small percentage of children in families above the income eligibility range for CHIP remain uninsured.  We will ensure an affordable plan for these families through premium assistance for some at the lower income levels. 

This plan is smart...it's cost effective and.... it's time.

Although Louisiana continues to receive an inequitable distribution of federal recovery health care dollars that could provide some assistance to this effort, my solution to fully insure our children doesn't rely on the federal government or require any federal waivers.

Of course, we all want to see each and every Louisiana resident insured.  That effort will continue to be our overarching goal and a vision that I am committed to pursuing within the resources of our state and with an expectation of federal waivers. 

However, covering our children is a goal we can reach now and I invite you to join me in pushing this initiative forward for the future of our state.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning.  Comprehensive health care reform for Louisiana is within our grasp and today we start with our children....the true future of a healthier and stronger Louisiana.


 


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