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Governor: 'Thousands of children remain uninsured. This is unacceptable'

Governor Kate Brown spoke to dozens of people from across the state Friday as they rallied in support of Cover All Kids. It's a House Bill that would extend health insurance coverage to all children in the state regardless of residency status. (SBG)

SALEM, Ore. -- Governor Kate Brown spoke to dozens of people from across the state Friday as they rallied in support of Cover All Kids.

It's a House Bill that would extend health insurance coverage to all children in the state regardless of residency status.

"Thousands of children remain uninsured," Governor Brown said. "This is unacceptable."

The Oregon Health Authority estimates 17,600 Oregon children don't have health coverage because they don't meet immigration requirements.

"We're here to try to remedy that significant exclusion to try to do the right thing by these children," Alberto Moreno, the Executive Director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, said.

Cover All Kids advocates say those children are less likely to do well in school and less likely to get the care they need.

Fatima Preciado spoke on their behalf: "My oldest sister suffers from epileptic seizures. Growing up we didn't have proper health insurance. So my mom had to really struggle a lot when it came to finding the income to pay for the medication."

She said often times her sister had to go without.

"We want our kids to grow up healthy, play sports, go to school without worrying about being sick," Preciado said.

But opponents of House Bill 2726 say it's expensive and not necessary.

"We don't deny care to anybody. It's not about denying care. It's just about denying coverage so that's something we need to think about within our resources," State Representative Mike Nearman of District 23 said.

It's a $55 million bill in a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

"They already have the ability to get healthcare through local clinics. There's over 200 clinics in the state of Oregon that will do that. At least one I know of in my district that will provide them with care," Nearman said.

Bill proponents say that's not enough.

"Episodic care is not the same thing as preventative healthcare," Moreno said. "Children who have diabetes need regular care, children who have other health problems need regular care."

Preciado agrees; her family uses that route now.

"It's still a burden. It continues to be a burden. We're struggling but we're getting by," she said.

The House Bill is in the Ways and Means committee.

And it has a companion bill in the Senate.

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