Deamonte’s Toothache

It is inexcusable that children are still dying because their parents don’t have health insurance.

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Two black boys died in the span of a week in 2007 because their mothers didn’t have health insurance. 

Deamonte Driver, 12, died of a toothache because his mother couldn’t afford to pay $80 to have a tooth extracted; the tooth abscessed and bacteria spread to his brain. After two surgeries and six weeks in the hospital, Deamonte was gone.

Devante Johnson, 14, died of kidney cancer after he spent four months uninsured while his mother tried to renew is Medicaid coverage. She filed application after application and appealed to a state representative. After the coverage was restored and he received first-rate care, Devante lost his battle with cancer. 

There is no reason why this should happen in a country as rich as ours.  

In an address to journalists gathered at the Morehouse School of Medicine last month, Marian Wright Edelman urged that America needs to take care of all children, not just the children we like or the ones who look like us or those who have problems, but all of them. 

“Stop denying children what they need,” she said at the National Association of Black Journalists Conference on Health Disparities.  

President Barack Obama signed the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP bill, Wednesday. It authorizes an additional $32.8 billion over the next 4½ years for children’s health insurance, Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, is pushing for more comprehensive coverage for all children. 

The new law guarantees heath insurance for 4 million children, but will leave another 5 to 6 million uninsured and millions more underinsured because eligibility and coverage varies from state to state. 

It’s not enough that a black man now resides in the White House. It will take "a strategic and organized movement" to finish the job of the civil rights movement, she said.  

What Edelman didn’t say is that as more and more Americans find themselves without jobs, in an entrenched recession that deepens almost daily, more and more children may find themselves without health coverage. COBRA is an expensive option, and I, for one, don’t want to imagine what would happen if one day I didn’t have health coverage for my little girls.

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