SCHIP veto draws ire of Democrats

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President Bush last week defended his veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation, which would have expanded healthcare coverage for children of low-income families.

Speaking at the Lancaster, Pa., Chamber of Commerce after issuing the veto against the $35 billion expansion of SCHIP last Wednesday, the President said, “this program expands coverage, federal coverage up to families earning $83,000 a year.”

The President’s action follows three other vetoes he has made thus far during his two-term presidency: two vetoes on bills that would have allowed medical scientists to conduct research on embryonic stem cell lines and one veto of a funding bill calling for a timetable on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The original SCHIP, created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, enacted Title XXI of the Social Security Act and allocated about $20 billion over ten years to help states insure more children. The law authorizes states to provide health care coverage to "targeted low-income children" who are not eligible for Medicaid and who are uninsured. States receive an enhanced federal match (greater than the state's Medicaid match) and have three years to expend each year's allotment.

The SCHIP expansion would offer health insurance for children of families with incomes of up to three times the federal poverty level, or $62,000 for a family of four. Under the program, states pay 25 percent of the costs, the federal government the rest.

Seven states already have extended coverage to the levels under the vetoed SCHIP expansion, and two states -- New Jersey and New York -- have taken it beyond.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued the following statement about President Bush’s veto:

“Never has it been clearer how detached President Bush is from the priorities of the American people. By vetoing a bipartisan bill to renew the successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), President Bush is denying health care to millions of low-income kids in America.

“Congress will fight hard to override President Bush’s heartless veto. Not only is this a critical program – one that will improve the lives of 6.6 million low-income children currently in SCHIP and provide health insurance to 4 million more – but the vast majority of the American people know giving kids the care they need is the right thing to do. Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress and the governors of nearly every state, healthcare providers and patient advocates, rural and urban Americans, and citizens of all ages are united in strong support of our nation’s children. With today’s veto, President Bush has turned his back on America’s children and he stands alone.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio countered with the following statement:

“Republicans are committed to reauthorizing SCHIP in a manner that puts poor children first, and we have outlined clear principles we hope can guide a bipartisan renewal of this critical program. The Republican Congress created SCHIP a decade ago to give millions of low-income, American children access to high-quality healthcare – not as a trial balloon for government-run health care or as a way to provide government benefits to adults and upper-income families who can afford private health insurance.

“Republicans will sustain this veto so we can begin working toward a bipartisan renewal of SCHIP that helps states provide health care to low-income children. Democrats now face an important choice: either work with Republicans to renew this program or continue to play politics on the backs of our nation’s children. If Democratic leaders are truly serious about reauthorizing SCHIP, then they will bring the veto override vote to the House floor immediately – not days or weeks from now – and join us in working to craft a responsible bill that puts low-income children first. To drag out this process any longer would only serve to underscore the fact that Democrats are more concerned with partisan politics than they are with expanding healthcare access for low-income children.”

Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., one of the sponsors of the original 1997 SCHIP legislation, responded to President Bush’s assertion that the bill cost to much by posting the following message on his blog:

“He says the bill costs too much. But for the price of one day in Iraq, we could cover 256,000 children. One week would cover 1.8 million children. And just over one month of