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Editorial: Investing In Children’s Health Worthwhile

From The Aiken Standard:

Tony Keck

10/27/2011 11:55 AM

Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck’s has made a request to add $35 million to the agency’s budget next year in an effort to cover 70,000 children under Medicaid. While that seems like an awful lot of money and government healthcare, Keck is correct in stating that this is the “conservative” approach.

Under federal guidelines, these children would need to be added by 2014, and Keck is right that the investment should be done in stages. “We’ve created this mountain we’re going to have to climb,” he said. “You can’t just expect the state budget to go from zero to 60 in one year. You’ve got to start to chip away at that unfunded liability. Let’s next year start to ramp up for whatever happens in 2014.”

Keck is right, but he seems to be looking — perhaps unintentionally — at children as a budget item. Indeed, children are a very precious resource for our state. A multi-million dollar investment in their health may be mandated, but it’s also good policy for our state and state of affairs. Just as education can brings positive results in breaking free of crime and poverty, so too can early health care — in particular preventative care — help to build stronger, better communities, as a new generation of healthy children mature in our state. This ultimately saves South Carolina money in the long-run due to reduced healthcare costs that come with an unhealthy populace.

The oft-cited rhetoric is that they should be taken care of by their parents. We agree. They should be. But many are not. It is true that some parents are derelict in their duty. But the children didn’t pick their parents, and shouldn’t be disenfranchised for that.

Regardless of any of that, the debate whether it should be funded is moot. The fact is, the children need to be covered, and Keck is doing the right thing — even if for budget line reasons — to follow through in a fiscally responsible manner. But the end result will be more covered children. And taking care of children is the conservative approach.