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An SCHIP On His Shoulder

Bush threatened again this week to veto legislation that will renew and improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Bush threatened again this week to veto legislation that will renew and improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to low-income, uninsured American children who do not qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private health insurance. Yet Bush says he cannot support it, citing “philosophical differences.” He told reporters Wednesday, “My concern is that when you expand eligibility…you’re really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government.”

  • The SCHIP represents the most successful expansion of health care coverage in America in decades.  The United States spends more on health care every year than any other country, and yet 9 million American children remain uninsured. SCHIP, which this year marks its 10th anniversary as a bipartisan, federal-state collaboration to improve the nation’s health coverage, has put a significant dent in that number. Bruce Lesley of First Focus calls SCHIP “the one major health care success story over the past 10 years” for providing “cost-effective health coverage to millions of children with coverage that the private market by itself has been unable to provide.” Along with Medicaid, SCHIP has “reduced the proportion and the number of low-income children who are uninsured by about one-third since 1997.” At a recent press conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt characterized the SCHIP legislation as “a Washington-run, government-owned plan, where government makes the choices, where government sets the prices, where government then taxes people to pay the bill.” This is a total fabrication. In fact, both SCHIP and the Medicaid program “use private doctors and private health care plans.” Moreover, “it is the states, not Washington, that set the income limits, contract with providers and set provider reimbursement rates, and determine most of the particulars of the health care benefit packages in these programs.”
  • Children will lose health coverage with Bush’s veto of the program. If the SCHIP legislation currently on the table were signed by President Bush, roughly 4.1 million children “who otherwise would be uninsured would have health care coverage by 2012,” according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also reports that nearly 1 million American children will lose their health insurance if the veto blocks reauthorization. Many of these children will manage to maintain some insurance even if Bush wields his veto — it will just mean a massive additional burden on their state governments. But another 800,000 children “will end up uninsured under the ‘budget baseline’ (because states would have insufficient federal SCHIP funding to sustain their existing programs).”