"They need their vaccinations. They need dental care," says Terry Murphy, Chairman of Voices for Michigan's Children. "They need all the healthcare that affluent children get."
And some 30,000 Michigan children receive that care through MIChild. It's state-federal funded health insurance for low-income kids that aren't eligible for Medicaid.
"My insurance premium for a family is $384 a month," explains Pam Carter. "As it stands, my monthly income and my fixed monthly bills are pretty much neck and neck."
Carter has three children currently using MIChild. But they're at risk of losing it, because the federal government hasn't decided whether or not to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP -- which pays for MIChild.
"We don't have a heavy lobby in Washington, D.C.," says Ralph Forsht of First Focus, a bipartisan children's advocacy group based in the nation's capital. "Kids don't vote. There's a lot of rhetoric that's given for kids, but the actual backing up with numbers and dollars is few and far between."
SCHIP was passed in 1997 for a term of ten years. It expires September 30th. Each year the federal government alloted roughly five billon dollars to be spread out among the states.
"This is the most important children's issue facing Congress this year," says Murphy.
On Thursday a group of children's advocates from Michigan and Washington, D.C. met in Lansing. They want Congress to reauthorize SCHIP and increase funding to $50 billion over the next five years.
Says Forsht, "Healthcare costs in this country rise 11% per year. Sustaining the current funding levels simply will not do it."
"If SCHIP isn't reauthorized, many children will not be covered by health insurance," adds Murphy."[And many] will suffer the consequences of that."
If SCHIP is renewed but only at the current level, Michigan will lack sufficient funding for MIChild as early as 2009.
"SCHIP must be authorized and expanded for the sake of our children," says Murphy.