Yesterday, at a White House press briefing, President Bush asked Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and the pending bill before Congress.
Congress has until the end of the month to reauthorize the SCHIP, which insures about six million children nationwide, who are not eligible for or enrolled in Medicaid. The proposed bill would add three million more children to the program. This summer, the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement to increase SCHIP spending by $35 billion.
When asked why the President plans to veto the current bill, Leavitt responded that the “President would like to see SCHIP reauthorized… The bill that the President will veto is represented to offer 2.6 million insurance. However, 1.2 million of those already have private insurance, and 900,000 of them already qualify.”
Leavitt stated that the bill veto is inevitable because “It helps those who are well-off as opposed to those who are poor. It moves people from private insurance to government insurance. It covers adults; this is a program for children.”
When pressed about why the President refuses to commit more than $5 billion toward the program, Leavitt responded, “We desire to see SCHIP continue to cover those children who are under 200 percent of the poverty line. We believe that the $5 billion is adequate to do that.”
The HHS secretary also mentioned that congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, plans to file and extension past the Sept. 30 deadline, in order to “work these differences out.”