Mr. President, in the coming weeks, the Finance Committee will meet to consider legislation to reauthorize the vitally important State Children’s Health Insurance Program, S-CHIP. The legislation that comes through committee will represent this Congress’s first opportunity to make a loud and clear statement regarding the importance of children’s health as a national priority.

As a member of the Finance Committee, I am focused on one goal: to insure each and everyone of the 11 million kids under the age of 21 who are uninsured today, while making sure that no other kids slip through the cracks. The first bill I introduced in this Congress, S. 95, the Kids Come First Act, would accomplish just that.

Because the Bush administration and previous Republican Congresses have played fast and loose with our Nation’s finances, today we face an enormous budget deficit. The unfortunate reality is that we may not be able to accomplish all of the goals set forth in Kids Come First. But the Democratic Congress is committed to doing everything in our power to expand health coverage to children this year.

Much of our efforts will be focused on S-CHIP reauthorization. But there are additional steps we can take to begin to address this problem. The Small Business Children’s Health Education Act, which I am introducing today with Senator SNOWE, represents one of those steps.

In February of 2007, the Urban Institute reported that among those eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, children whose families are self-employed or who work for small business concerns are far less likely to be enrolled. Specifically, one out of every four eligible children with parents who work for a small business or who are self-employed are not enrolled. This statistic compares with just 1 out of every 10 eligible children whose parents work for a large firm.

We need to do a better job of informing and educating America’s small business owners and employees of the options that may be available for covering uninsured children. To that effect, the Small Business Children’s Health Education Act creates an intergovernmental task force, consisting of the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Treasury, to conduct a campaign to enroll kids of small business employees who are eligible for S-CHIP and Medicaid but are not currently enrolled. To educate America’s small businesses on the availability of S-CHIP and Medicaid, the task force is authorized to make use of the Small Business Administration’s business partners, including the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the Small Business Development Centers, Certified Development Companies, and Women’s Business Centers, and is authorized to enter into memoranda of understanding with chambers of commerce across the country.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration is directed to post S-CHIP and Medicaid eligibility criteria and enrollment information on its website, and to report back to the Senate and House Committees on Small Business regarding the status and successes of the task force’s efforts to enroll eligible kids.

If you believe that we should be doing everything in our power to get every kid in this country insured, then this proposal is a no-brainer. It is estimated that 6 million of the 9 million uninsured children living in the United States are currently eligible for S-CHIP and Medicaid. These are kids who already meet the criteria for coverage, we just need to get the word to their parents and to their parents’ employers that they are eligible. Ultimately, this is about priorities. I believe that the richest country on earth should not rest until all of our children are as safe and as healthy as they can possibly be. I thank Senator SNOWE for our longstanding partnership on issues critical to America’s small business owners, and for her work on this legislation. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the record.