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Will Ohio Kids Get a Valentine...from Congress?

February 14, 2007

Will Congress choose Ohio's kids as their Valentine's Day pals? Physicians' groups and children's advocates say boosting federal health insurance and foster care funding are the best way to have a heart on this holiday. Comments from Melissa Arnold, executive director of the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Pauline Abernathy with the Pew Charitable Trusts. (NOTE-Second half can be a stand alone story).

Kids prefer candy - but Congress could give the best Valentine of all, according to physicians groups and children's advocates. A federal children's health insurance law is up for renewal in Congress, with hearings this week. Melissa Arnold is head of the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; she says the program, known as "S-CHIP," provides needed coverage to thousands of Ohio kids - and that means healthier children, and a healthier state budget.

"We know that if we can get 'em in for their preventative services, keep 'em healthy, keep 'em out of the E.R., you're going to make savings for the state because you're going to cut health care costs."

Arnold says Congress should expand the program, to help cover the more than 200-thousand uninsured children in Ohio. The White House budget proposal includes a small increase - but Arnold says that won't be enough to keep up the current level of services, much less expand coverage.

One Valentine's Day no-no: stiffing your date with the bill. A new national report is charging the federal government with stiffing Ohio on funding for kids in foster care funding. Pauline Abernathy with the Pew Charitable Trusts says the feds are shorting Ohio tens of millions of dollars in foster care support each year - because they're using an obsolete system that hasn't been updated in over a decade. She says that shortfall can limit services to kids who need help the most...

"The states aren't getting the help they need from the federal government, because we've got more than 500 thousand children in foster care across the nation, more than 17 thousand in Ohio alone."

Abernathy says Congress needs to overhaul the federal foster care funding system. A bill to do that failed to pass in the last session; Abernathy expects it to be reintroduced in the current Congress.

in Ohio.

Kids prefer candy - but Congress could give the best Valentine of all, according to physicians groups and children's advocates. Rob Ferrett reports.

Arnold is at 614-846-6258. Abernathy is at 215-575-4711. The foster care report is at

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OH