Bush vetoes SCHIP bill

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In just the fourth veto of his presidency, President Bush today exercised his veto power to reject the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which is a joint state-federal effort that subsidizes health coverage for 6.6 million people. The program is made up largely of children from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance coverage.
In the past two weeks, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the reauthorization bill with an overwhelming majority. The Senate proposed to increase funding to $35 billion over the next five years and brought total spending on the program to $60 billion, but Bush refused to accept any more than $5 billion more in spending. The increase would have added three million children to SCHIP. The term children also had been expanded to people 21 to 25 years old as well.
Bush’s refusal to increase the budget will thus reduce the number of reimbursements that underprivileged children can receive through Medicare and Medicaid, including those for imaging procedures.
On Sept. 10, medical imaging equipment manufacturers, such as GE Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions, Philips Medical Systems and Varian Medical Systems, went to Washington, D.C., to appeal to the Bush administration to slow down on the cuts in Medicare payments for the use of their products. Obviously, the appeal fell on deaf ears.
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would cover 3.2 million uninsured children, including 2.7 million who are currently eligible but not enrolled, while it reported that the House bill would cover 4.2 million children, including 3.8 million already eligible for benefits. Both bills would provide funding to prevent 800,000 children currently on the program from losing coverage.
According to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, “What the President wants is for SCHIP to revert back to what is the original intent of the law, which is that the neediest children should be taken care of first. That's not what the law that they sent to the President does-well, we don't have it yet, we'll get it soon-but that's not what that law does.”
In the upcoming election season, many Republicans are likely to feel the pressure of public opinion, the 70 percent of the public support the current SCHIP bill, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll released yesterday.
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), whose release said: “This is a debate over whether we should move to nationalize healthcare.” He is working with Joe Barton (R-TX) and the White House on a new SCHIP bill that would provide enough funding to maintain the bill’s current beneficiaries. It would also give $1,400 tax credits to families with annual incomes between 200 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which would cover an estimated two million additional children, according to Martinez.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) today told CongressDaily that lawmakers will not be able to address a scheduled 10 percent cut to Medicare physician reimbursements until they know the outcome of the SCHIP override vote. He said some type of Medicare package needs to be discussed before lawmakers adjourn. The committee is in discussions on a legislative package that temporarily would delay the cut to physician payments and make small revisions to the prescription drug program.