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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Residents stand up for SCHIP

By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent

Pediatric residents in Massachusetts and around the country gathered at noon today to push for expansion of a children's insurance plan that President Bush has threatened to veto.

At Boston Medical Center, about 50 residents, pediatricians, nurses and social workers paused in the hospital's main lobby as part of "Stand Up for SCHIP," the insurance program that covers children who don't qualify for Medicaid. There would have been one more, but that resident stayed behind in the intensive care unit with a child in respiratory distress, chief resident Marie Clark told the group. The child's father couldn't afford the asthma medication prescribed during an office visit on Friday, Dr. Suzanne Steinbach added, as an example of how lack of insurance hurts children.

"All of us here have had the same story," Dr. Barry Zuckerman, chief of pediatrics, said. "All of us are asking the president to do the right thing for children."

The State Children's Health Insurance Program is a federal program that covers 6.6 million children. It was set to expire after 10 years but Congress and the Bush administration are at odds over its funding and expansion. It is temporarily funded through mid-November.

Congress passed a bill that would expand the program by $35 billion over five years, to be paid for with new tobacco taxes.The number of uninsured children who could participate nationwide would grow to 10 million. Bush, who wants to increase funding by $5 billion over five years, has promised to veto the bill.

"Congressional leaders have put forward an irresponsible plan that would dramatically expand this program beyond its original intent," the president said in his radio address Saturday. "And they know I will veto it."

In Massachusetts, families earning three times the federal poverty level can obtain insurance through SCHIP for their children. The plan covers 90,500 children in the state.

Last week residents at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hosptial in California planned a demonstration for today that spread to more than 30 hospitals around the country.

At Children's Hospital Boston, about 40 residents stood outside on Longwood Avenue to hear chief resident Carl Eriksson and second-year resident Michelle Niescierenko .

"We need to come together in solidarity with pediatric residents around the country to make a stand for children's health," Eriksson said.

At UMass Medical School in Worcester, about 40 medical students, interns, residents, staffers and administrators stood outside to voice their support for an expanded SCHIP program.

"It's not socialized medicine," UMass professor Dr. David Keller said in a statement. "It is good for our children."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 04:58 PM
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