Dr. Jennifer Howse said health insurance is the single most important factor in determining whether a child gets needed health care. The March of Dimes is dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
"Every child needs preventive care," Howse said. "It helps them become healthy, productive adults."
Howse's address marks the fifth consecutive week in which the Democrats' radio address focused on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. On Thursday, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would increase spending on the program to $60 billion over five years, double what Bush has proposed.
SCHIP provides government-subsidized health insurance to low-income families. The vast majority of the 6.6 million participants are children.
The March of Dimes was among the scores of advocacy groups that lined up in support of the legislation. Howse said health insurance coverage for babies born prematurely is a matter of life and death, as well as a family's financial survival.
Howse also said the bill gives states an option to cover more pregnant women who meet the program's income guidelines.
"Maternity care allows health providers to detect and manage conditions early, often preventing more serious health consequences," Howse said. "Coverage for the full spectrum of maternity care services - prenatal through postpartum care - improves the health of both mothers and their babies."
Democratic lawmakers have signaled that they'll make some changes to the bill and soon bring it back up for a vote. The White House and many Republican lawmakers have said they would like to sit down with Democrats and try to work out a compromise. The president has repeatedly discussed his support for the program, but says SCHIP should not be expanded to cover more middle-income families.