Today the Congress failed to override President Bush’s veto of the bipartisan reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. Time will tell how this administration victory will play out for the president and his allies in Congress. But right now we know that this vote was a loss for America’s children.
Nearly 4 million uninsured children would have received health coverage under this proposal. Worse yet, children currently insured through SCHIP will lose coverage due to the current inadequate funding. Because of this veto, they will remain at risk for delayed care, missed immunizations, undetected health problems, and other maladies associated with being uninsured.
The President stated yesterday that he wants to work out a “compromise” with SCHIP’s supporters, and suggested that he may be willing to increase program funding beyond his initial budget request. This compromise should not be about a budget number, particularly since the vetoed bill was fully financed. Nor should it be about ideology and competing visions of government. This is a bipartisan bill supported by conservative Republicans. The provisions about who is covered and how they are covered can be reviewed.
But the number of children who will be covered under SCHIP reauthorization should not be negotiable. The president has not previously suggested that the vetoed bill covered too many children—so he should commit to working with SCHIP supporters to provide health coverage to the nearly 4 million uninsured children who would have been covered by the bill he vetoed. It is morally unacceptable to wheel and deal away coverage for millions of uninsured children in the interest of ideology or political positioning. It is time for the president and his allies in Congress to realize that children’s health care is at stake.
More on SCHIP from the Center for American Progress: