U.S. church leaders call for child health plan

Washington, D.C.-- Twenty faith groups, including the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) joined PICO National Network in pressing for health insurance coverage for many of the nine million uninsured children in America.

Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Episcopal, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders sent a letter to Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging them to produce $50 billion needed in legislation to expand the successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

"The faith community worked hard to win $50 billion in new funding in the budget resolution. We expect Congressional leaders to use these funds to reach millions of uninsured children in our nation," said the Rev. John Bauman, S.J., executive director of PICO National Network.

The letter, signed by the religious leaders, asks Baucus and Reid to keep their commitment to spend $50 billion over five years to cover as many as six million uninsured children.  The letter from faith groups representing 50 million Americans comes during intense closed door negotiations over SCHIP in the Senate.  National clergy leaders are making personal appeals to key senators during a week of intense advocacy for children. 

PICO and the NCC have generated 9,000 letters to key senators over the past week and organized SCHIP clergy coalitions in key states such Indiana, Kansas and Missouri.

"We want Congressional leaders to understand that people of faith see covering children as our highest legislative priority this year," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC.  "In our Christian tradition we follow a Jesus who said, 'Let the little children come to me...'(Luke 18:16).  The most vulnerable were priorities for Jesus.  Today, our uninsured children are among the most vulnerable."

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches.  These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

PICO is a faith-based network of 1,000 congregations working in 150 cities and 18 states to revitalize communities and strengthen families.

For more information visit www.piconetwork.org/schip.html.

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