Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

SCHIP and Bush

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The NY Times editorial today on SCHIP and the compassionate conservative Bush:

President Bush accused Congressional Democrats of putting health coverage for poor children at risk by forcing him to veto a bill that he says is a dangerous step toward government-run health care. The opposite is the case. Mr. Bush is the one putting the health of America’s children at risk, threatening to veto carefully crafted legislation that would reauthorize and expand the valuable State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-chip.

We can only hope that fair-minded members of Congress will pass the compromise measure by veto-proof majorities this week. Otherwise, millions of low- and middle-income children would be denied access to a program that has played a critical role in reducing the number of uninsured children over the past decade.

To hear the president tell it, he has long supported the joint federal-state program, and his budget for fiscal year 2008 proposes an additional $5 billion in federal funds spread over the next five years, a 20 percent increase over current levels. What he doesn’t say is that this paltry sum is not even enough to provide continued coverage for all of the children who are currently enrolled, let alone enroll millions more of the uninsured.

A compromise bill approved in recent days by Congressional leaders would boost the funding by $35 billion over the next five years, enough to enroll several million more children above the 6.6 million already participating. The bill deserves wide support. This is by no means a measure designed to score political advantage, as Mr. Bush contends. The compromise retreats from a partisan bill fashioned by House Democrats and largely mirrors legislation crafted by prominent members of both parties in the Senate and approved by a large bipartisan majority, enough to overcome a veto, in that chamber.

It diverges from the Senate bill primarily by overturning a new set of arbitrary, overly stringent rules imposed by the administration to prevent states from providing S-chip coverage to middle-income children, those whose family income exceeds 250 percent of the poverty level. The administration contends that expanded coverage would cause middle-class parents to drop private health insurance for their children and switch to the government program, saddling taxpayers with the bill.

That may happen to some extent, but many middle-class families clearly need help in the wake of cutbacks in employer health benefits. A recent analysis of census data by Urban Institute researchers found that the number of uninsured children jumped by a startling 710,000 last year. Almost half of the increase was in families with incomes between 200 percent and 399 percent of poverty — the very group the administration seems to believe is adequately insured and has no need of S-chip. The compromise bill gives states needed time and assistance to devise the best ways to insure these middle-income people without disrupting private coverage. Meanwhile, the first priority would be to enroll more of the poor.

Divisive provisions that were rammed through the House by Democrats, involving Medicare reforms, have been dropped. All members of Congress now need to let Mr. Bush know that he is the one playing politics with the health of America’s children and then pass this legislation with a veto-proof majority.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 9:36 am

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