Congress tables SCHIP vote this session under veto threats, cost concerns

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Congress was unable to find a way to defray the extra cost of SCHIP in this session. Image source: Lewis-Clark State College  

Congressional Democrats will not vote on legislation this year to renew and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), citing an inability to override a promised veto by President George W. Bush.

The "fight over the children's insurance program prefigures a larger legislative debate, expected to start next year, over the future of healthcare and the role of government in providing it," according to the New York Times.

President Bush vetoed two earlier versions of the SCHIP bill, saying that they represented the first step toward "government-run healthcare for every American." The House sustained both vetoes, however, in an effort to reverse the president’s veto, advocates of the bill tried to keep it alive by linking children’s health insurance to the economic stimulus package.

The NY Times reported that democrats cited several reasons for their second thoughts about the wisdom of another vote on the child health bill. While the cost of the bill has increased, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), under current rules, Congress would need to find a way to defray the extra cost. Time is short, however, and the congressional calendar is packed with other issues.

In 2007, more than 7 million children were enrolled in SCHIP. The CBO estimates that the bill, financed by an increase in tobacco taxes, would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.4 million by 2013. But at the same time, it could encourage some families to substitute public for private coverage, reducing by 2.3 million the number of children who would otherwise have private coverage.