Members of Congress should put their money where their mouths are and support state insurance programs for residents with health problems.

A coalition of health and benefits groups delivered that message here during a recent briefing on Capitol Hill on the status of federal funding for state high-risk health insurance pools.

The 33 risk pools provide health coverage for individuals with conditions such as cancer or diabetes that make purchasing conventional health insurance difficult.

Program supporters say the programs increase access to health coverage while preserving a reasonably free health insurance market for applicants in good health.

The briefing sponsors–the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage, Washington; the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va.; and Communicating for Agriculture and the Self-Employed, Fergus Falls, Minn.–pointed out that Congress has not yet appropriated 2007 risk pool funding, even though lawmakers have authorized spending up to $75 million on risk pool support.

Briefing participants included pool administrators from states such as Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas.

The participants also included Jim Cassell, a Maryland resident with an uninsurable child, and Colleen Smith, a Maryland child care provider with a serious medical condition and an annual income of just $15,000.

“I don’t think I could manage to find the money to pay for health insurance that is a lot higher than what I have now– even if I could get it,” Smith said.