Bush vetoes SCHIP reauthorization and expansion, again



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On a recent quiz I gave my students, one of the questions was: Which of the following groups are not “entitled” to healthcare: the elderly, children, prisoners, or veterans?

Some low-income, uninsured kids get access to health care through Medicaid, but there are income and age eligibility requirements that vary by state. The State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) Program is a federally financed program designed to help states expand health care coverage to uninsured kids either through Medicaid or other programs.

For the second time in three months, President Bush just vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) program.

The Center for American Progress writes:

After Bush vetoed the SCHIP legislation in early October, he argued, “When it comes to SCHIP, we should be guided by a clear principle: Put poor children first.” By all accounts, SCHIP has been successful in accomplishing this mission. Since 2000, while 6.8 million people lost health coverage, “SCHIP and Medicaid ensured that the proportion of low-income children without health insurance actually declined during this period, from 20 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2005.” The second version of SCHIP that Congress passed sought to address Bush’s major concern about the bill “by capping eligibility at 300 percent of the federal poverty line — slightly more than $60,000 for a family of four.” Yet Bush trotted out the same excuse yesterday for vetoing the popular and successful health insurance program. “This bill does not put poor children first,” he said, “and it moves our country’s health care system in the wrong direction.” The administration apparently views the confrontation over SCHIP as “making for good politics.” The New York Times reported, “The White House, convinced that Republicans lost Congressional seats last year because the public was fed up with government spending, calculates that Mr. Bush will please fiscal conservatives by drawing the line against a big expansion of the program.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Authorization for SCHIP expired on Sept. 30 and has twice been extended by continuing resolutions passed by Congress to keep the federal government operating. “But the second extension is due to expire on Dec. 14, and no one is sure what will happen next.” The fate of this critical program “remains undecided,” as lawmakers negotiate a new five-year funding package that can win Bush’s approval or draw a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate. If Congress cannot win over Bush’s support, leaders from both parties are expected to “pass a one-year extension of the program” with the aim of including “enough money in the measure to maintain current levels of enrollment, estimated at 6.6 million children.” While campaigning in 2004, Bush pledged, “In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government’s health insurance programs.” Now, Bush has become the one man standing between 10 million low-income children and their health insurance.

My kids keep asking how many days until Christmas? I’m counting the days until the next inauguration.

-Andrea Kalfoglou

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