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Vision Care for Kids Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

VISION CARE FOR KIDS ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - October 15, 2007)


Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Speaker, I want to thank the gentlelady from Wisconsin (Ms. Baldwin), who is a model of sensitivity to the needs of all of our children.

I want to thank Congressman Fossella, who's been at the forefront of this.

Madam Speaker, I rise today regarding an issue that has long been near to my heart. I've been listening to these other bills that have been put forth in bipartisan fashion. This is a good example of what we can do together when it comes to our children, their health care and their education. This is critical. This is important. So anybody who says we can't do it is not listening today.

I also want to thank Chairman Dingell, Chairman Pallone for their thoughtful consideration and support for preventive vision care for children. Many a kid has been put in the back of the class or sent out of the room because it was misinterpreted, misunderstood, and many times, that child had a problem with vision, with seeing and was too embarrassed to say so, or couldn't recognize it within himself. So preventive vision care is critically important to avoid vision loss and blindness in our Nation's children.

Untreated vision problems can affect a child's physical, educational, and emotional development. That is why for many years, as my good friend from Staten Island has pointed out, we have fought for legislation to set up a grant program to provide comprehensive eye exams and the necessary follow-up care for children whose families do not have the resources or access to such care.

The Center for Disease Control states that approximately 1.8 million children under the age of 18 are blind or have some form of visual impairment. Fortunately, vision loss can be avoided with early diagnosis and treatment. That is not so revealing, is it? On any such disease, early vision, early problems affecting vision, early problems affecting hearing, early problems of detection of teeth, et cetera, et cetera, many of these visual deficits are caught only after they have impaired the child's early and most critical education. That's the rub.

Eye health has a direct impact on learning and achievement. That's the core of the fight that we have waged. It is a national disgrace, Madam Speaker, that only one in three children receive preventive vision care before they are enrolled in elementary school. That's not acceptable.

So I'm pleased to introduce this, along with Congressman Gene Green, and there are many others that we need to salute here who have fought this fight with us, and that is Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Representative John Boozman. Senator Kit Bond on the other side of the building has waged that fight over there. A truly bipartisan effort.

It's so easy. I know it's difficult for us as Congressmen to understand that, including myself. But it's so easy that we can come together when the problem is defined and we can work together, together on a solution.

Here's a perfect example. The seven bills, the eight bills that we just have gone through, Commerce, these affect people's lives. They're not esoteric. They're not up in the sky someplace. These affect people.

H.R. 507 will establish a Federal grant program to provide for timely diagnostic examination, treatment and follow-up vision care for children.

This legislation will complement existing State programs and allow eye exams for a vulnerable pediatric population that does not qualify for Medicaid and does not qualify for SCHIP and do not have access to private health insurance. Critical that we understand this. Very important here. Very significant for those families.

Better eye care will significantly mitigate the effects of visual impairment. So it's important to act now, Madam Speaker. The prevention is more than half the battle.

Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Vision Care for Kids Act. Kids out there are waiting for us in all 50 States to act on this.

Thank you, Mr. Fossella. Thank you to my good friend, the gentlelady from Wisconsin. And I think that we've hit a home run here for the last hour and a half, thanks to you both.


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