Opinion Columns & Blogs

State moves to provide health care to all children by 2010

On July 5, I attended a recognition event at the Tukwila Community Center. In attendance were Gov. Christine Gregoire, Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, Rep. Phyllis Kenney and House Speaker Frank Chopp, both Democrats from Seattle. Hispanic leaders and state government agency officials were in attendance.

The event sponsored by Sea Mar Community Health Centers, which recognized the governor and legislators for its leadership in the passage of House Bill 5093. The measure was signed into law by the governor March 13.

HB 5093 has a goal to provide health care services for all children in the state of Washington by 2010.

During her remarks to our group, Gregoire commented that she often is asked what she likes about being a governor. She recalled the day, shortly after she took office, when she issued an order that restored health coverage for more than 30,000 children.

From that day forward the governor has placed the wellbeing of children as one of her top priorities. And she has delivered! The passing of HB 5093 sends a strong message about her promise and commitment to our children's health.

Gov. Gregoire also demonstrated leadership when the federal government and the Bush administration tried to change the Medicaid program to withhold medical services for babies born in the United States to undocumented immigrants until their proof of citizenship was processed and approved. About 8,000 Washington infants would have been adversely affected by the 2005 deficit reduction policy.

The effect on citizen children prompted Gov. Gregoire to file a lawsuit against the federal policy. Washington was the only state to file suit in U.S. District court charging that the newborn requirement was discriminatory against U.S.-born citizens. According to Gregoire, "The Constitution could not be more clear: Babies born in the U.S. are citizens regardless of who their parents are." Weeks later, the federal government changed the policy so all newborns will be treated equally.

The legislators who stood behind HB 5093 and Gregoire's stand against federal government red tape demonstrate that human kindness - not politics - is what's important!

As I listened to our state leaders speak to a very appreciative audience, I pondered the last time I recognized those around me - both visible or behind the scenes - for their contributions to our community. My thoughts turned to an opportunity lost - my chance to thank one local leader who was so very committed to our community, who always worked in the background and whom we rarely heard about in the news media.

Gabriel Ramos, recently passed away.

Ramos truly had a heart for helping people. When a need arose, he would ask, "What needs to be done?" One could be sure that Ramos would deliver. Whether raising funds for Latino scholarships, working with youth in sports, or providing leadership for "Image de Rainier" a local Hispanic organization committed to education and employment, Ramos was always ready to act. Over the years his efforts generated thousands of dollars to support higher education for Latinos.

Through his inspiration and efforts, "Image de Rainier" continues to support young Hispanics in their endeavors for higher education.

I honor Gabriel Ramos a true friend and a kind human being and am sorry I didn't get to thank him earlier.

Felix Negron, a member of The Olympian's Diversity Panel, is a commissioner with the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs. He can be reached at flnegron@hotmail.com.