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Good day.

Health care is a basic human right, and universal health insurance coverage is my goal for every man, woman and child in Maine.

This is a great challenge. Health care is an issue so important and complicated that to truly provide universal insurance, a national solution is needed.

But as we just learned in the latest Census data released last month, the rate of the uninsured in the nation has climbed, this includes more children who are without health insurance.

Absent a national solution, with health care costs continuing to climb, states have had to go it alone. But Maine has led the way.

In the latest Census data, Maine tied for first in the nation in health insurance coverage.

Through Dirigo Health Reforms, we are addressing underlying costs in the health care system while working to improve the quality of care and providing more insurance options in the health care marketplace.

We announced this week that DirigoChoice will now be offered through Harvard Pilgrim, a nonprofit insurance company. This new partnership is a better financial arrangement for Dirigo and helps bring competition back to the health insurance marketplace in Maine.

We have expanded coverage through Medicaid and through innovative efforts that ensure people don’t go without the health care they need, but that they get it by better managing and tightening the controls in the Medicaid program.

Also, in the recent State Legislative session, we achieved legislation to require insurers and allow employers to extend a child’s insurance coverage on a parent’s plan until the age of 25, regardless of whether or not the child is in school.

Much of our success in keeping our rate of uninsured low has been through the use of the tool known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

I was very pleased to be part of its creation at the federal-state partnership, being established in 1997. I was in my second term as a 2nd District Congressman from Maine.

This program has lived up to its promise. It is a unique program providing states with precious funding, and with the flexibility to craft their own effective programs.

Maine’s program is one of the most successful in the country.

In fact, 93% of children in Maine have health insurance. Even when talking about the hardest group of kids to insure – the poor and near-poor, children of working families – the very group designed for Children’s Health Insurance to cover – Maine’s has reached a successful coverage rate of 88%.

More than 13,000 Maine children have health care because of this program.

But now, Maine and other states’ good faith efforts to extend affordable insurance to children are being threatened.

As I expressed in a letter to President Bush almost a year ago, pulling back coverage to our children is unacceptable.

Funding for this program is one of the best investments we can make to ensure that our children grow and develop healthy, reduce chronic disease instances and costs, and attend school better equipped to learn.

Simply put, future success of Maine’s efforts to provide quality affordable health care to Maine children depends on the federal government continuing to meet its responsibility to this program.

Luckily, Congress is moving in to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program in a way that keeps the promise made ten years ago.

Both the current House and Senate versions of the reauthorization would enable Maine to continue the health insurance program for children.

Both bills would give Maine and other states the tools to expand that coverage.

I want to extend my thanks to our Congressional Delegation: to Senator Snowe and Senator Collins; Congressman Allen and Congressman Michaud – for their strong support of Children’s Health Insurance Programs.

Their voices have been loud and clear through this debate.

Working with my Administration and other governors, they have rejected the White House’s attempts to curtail insurance to low and moderate income families.

Along with our Delegation in Washington, D.C., Children’s Health Insurance Programs has strong support in Maine from the Maine Legislature, the Maine Children's Alliance, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine hospitals, Maine physicians, among many others in the State of Maine, because they all know there’s nothing more important than protecting the health and welfare of the children of the State of Maine.

Thank you very much and have a good weekend.

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