Article

Health Care: Shredding Children’s Safety Net

The United States spends more on health care every year than any other country, and yet nine million American children remain uninsured.

  Features
 

GOOD NEWS

A bill granting Washington, D.C. “its first full-fledged seat in the House of Representatives passed the Judiciary Committee yesterday, clearing the final hurdle before a vote by the entire House, expected next week.”


STATE WATCH

OHIO: Gov. Ted Strickland (D) lays out an ambitious plan to expand pre-school access.

WYOMING: Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) signs legislation to better fund small and rural hospitals.

ENVIRONMENT: Three progressive counties across the country “are taking the lead in reducing greenhouse gases and other parts of the global warming puzzle.”


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Timeline: Four years of war in Iraq.

IRAQ SLOGGER: Photographers operating in Iraq are at a higher risk for psychological difficulties, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

COUNTER PUNCH: Baghdad has become “a dozen different cities at war with each other.”

ASSIGNMENT ZERO: New project “to develop a working model of an open newsroom.”


DAILY GRILL

Q How about Karl Rove’s office? Do you know if he was involved?
DANA PERINO: I don’t believe so.
— White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 3/6/07, denying White House advisor Karl Rove’s role in the prosecutor purge

VERSUS

“New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than previously acknowledged by the White House.”
— ABC News, 3/15/07


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 March 16, 2007
Shredding Children’s Safety Net
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Shredding Children’s Safety Net

The United States spends more on health care every year than any other country, and yet nine million American children remain uninsured. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – a joint federal-state funding program — provides vital health insurance coverage for children in families whose income levels render them ineligible for either Medicaid or private insurance. “Since 2000, 6.8 million people have lost health coverage, but 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.” To continue the program’s success, SCHIP needs to overcome urgent federal funding shortfalls. “Democrats and some of their Republican allies have managed to append $175 million to a supplemental Iraq War funding bill to plug the program’s year-end shortfall.” To ensure that lower-income children and their families can depend on quality health insurance in the future, this funding crisis demands urgent congressional approval. 

STATES FACE SEVERE SHORTFALLS: Because the federal government provides much of the funding that states use for SCHIP, inadequate federal spending on the program has hit individual states hard. Currently, states face $735 million in SCHIP deficits. Because Georgia is facing a $131 million shortfall in federal funding, it recently ceased enrollment of new children and is considering legislation to remove coverage for 21,000 children in its PeachCare program. As a temporary solution to the problem, the state announced this week that it would shift funds from Medicaid into the program. Georgia is hardly alone — at least fourteen states face federal SCHIP funding shortfalls. Without congressional action to provide more funding, up to 510,000 children nationwide stand to lose their health coverage.

BUSH PLAN RESTRICTS COVERAGE FOR CHILDREN: President Bush may claim that he plans to fully fund and reauthorize SCHIP, but his 2008 budget reveals that children’s health care is not among his priorities. He is reneging on the decade-long, bipartisan commitment to children’s coverage. “The President’s fiscal year 2008 budget proposes to reauthorize the SCHIP for five years but provides less than half of the funding needed for states to maintain their existing SCHIP caseloads.” The Congressional Budget Office “estimates that the program will require $13 billion to $15 billion above current funding levels just to keep covering the same number of children for the next five years. The Bush administration has proposed $4.8 billion [above current funding levels].” States would be forced to pick up the slack or cut children’s eligibility. Bush has called for restricting eligibility to only those children falling below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. His proposal would require 16 states that currently offer coverage above the 200 percent limit to cut their eligibility. Bush’s plan would also reduce coverage for adults receiving healthcare under SCHIP. “In spite of widespread interest in expanding children’s coverage, the president would cause the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and SCHIP to decline.” Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) lambasted Bush’s SCHIP budget last month, calling them an attempt “to shred the health insurance safety net.”

RENEW AND EXPAND: Nine million American children lack health insurance. “This year, Congress has a chance to renew and expand the successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program to put our nation on the road to covering all children.” Polls show that a majority of Americans desire a major expansion of health insurance, and are even willing to pay higher taxes to finance it. At the recent National Governors Association meeting, a bipartisan group of governors expressed grave concerns “that inadequate funding of SCHIP would lead to families losing medical coverage.” “We need immediate action from the administration and Congress, and we’re imploring both of those to do their share to fund the federal part,” said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R). “Our states are willing to fund the states’ parts, but we need the Congress to step in and to fund the shortfall.” (Bush failed to mention SCHIP reform in his address to the governors last week). This week, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) introduced legislation to provide health care coverage to all children. The Children’s Health First Act would boost spending on SCHIP by $50 billion and encourage states to cover all children with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level.” The bill also provides states with resources for seeking out the six million children who currently are eligible for SCHIP but are not enrolled.

Under the Radar

ETHICS — NEW E-MAILS SHOW ROVE, GONZALES HAD DEEPER ROLE IN U.S. ATTORNEY FIRINGS: New e-mails reveal that the plan for firing U.S. Attorneys originated in the White House. Both White House advisor Karl Rove and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys in early Jan. 2005. The e-mails directly contradict White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s assertion on Tuesday that the idea to fire all 93 attorneys was first suggested by former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and was “her idea only.” Miers proposed firing the prosecutors in Feb. 2005, a month after Rove and Gonzales did. Additionally, on March 6, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied that Rove had been involved in the prosecutor purge at all and yesterday, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) said, “I’m not so sure if Karl Rove has much to do with this.” But the new e-mails also show that not only did Rove first propose the mass firing of all the prosecutors, he also came up with the idea of targeted firings. In a Jan. 9, 2005 e-mail with the subject line “Re: Question from Karl Rove,” then-Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson, discussed with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch the idea of replacing “15-20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys,” because “80-85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc.” Sampson added, “[I]f Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I.”

TORTURE — PENTAGON REDACTED STATEMENTS OF KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED DISCUSSING TORTURE: According to a Pentagon transcript released yesterday, Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessed to masterminding 9/11 and “more than 30 other terror attacks or plots” at a military hearing held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, although many government officials believe his claims may be “exaggerated.” Mohammed has long been the subject of extreme interrogation techniques, including water boarding. “CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. … KSM won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half-minutes before begging to confess.” The CIA also reportedly abducted his seven and nine-year-old sons and flew them to the United States for interrogation. In his remarks to a military tribunal, Mohammed raised objections to the treatment he received, but his statements on torture were redacted by the Pentagon in its publicly released transcript: “I know American people are torturing us from seventies. [REDACTED]. I know they are talking human rights. And I know it is against American constitution, against American laws.” Mohammed claimed that CIA interrogators warned him he would be subjected to illegal treatment, calling it “bad luck.” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (HRW) questioned the legality of the closed-door sessions and whether Mohammed’s confession was actually the result of torture. “We won’t know that unless there is an independent hearing,” he said. “We need to know if this purported confession would be enough to convict him at a fair trial or would it have to be suppressed as the fruit of torture?” HRW has also called on the Pentagon to make public the full transcript.

IRAQ — PETREAUS WANTS TO ADD ANOTHER BRIGADE TO ESCALATION: Gen. David Petraeus “has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial ‘surge’ of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups,” the Boston Globe reports. The appeal — “not yet made public” — “would involve between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships,” bringing the “planned expansion of U.S. forces to close to 30,000 troops.” The Globe also reports that “military spokesmen in Baghdad have already reported that the number of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks have dropped significantly in the four weeks since US and Iraqi troops began to move into neighborhoods plagued by militias and gangs.” But as the Washington Post reported, “Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital.” Moreover, analysts say that if violence is down in Baghdad, “it is likely because the Shiite militias operating there are waiting out the buildup in U.S. troops, nearly all of whom are being deployed in the capital. At the same time, Sunni insurgents have escalated their operations elsewhere.” The Post also reported that many of President Bush’s recent rosy claims about the escalation have been skewed or flatly false.


Think Fast

67 percent: Number of Americans who believe President Bush should not pardon Scooter Libby, opposed to just 21 percent who believe he should.

Although Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confession “may have effectively signed his own death warrant,” his statements might actually help other suspects. “Mohammed took credit for so many different terrorist plots that others could use his testimony in their own defense strategy.”

“Buried in the $124 billion House version of the wartime supplemental appropriation is an order to the Defense Department to release a report on the April 2004 death in Afghanistan of Army Spc. Patrick Tillman,” whose death by friendly fire Army leaders tried to cover up.

Yesterday, the “House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a measure that barred the closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.”

House investigators are looking at “whether the Army is running a plush ward at the [Walter Reed] complex for VIPs at the expense of ordinary war casualties.” The suites — which are reserved for high-ranking government officials and dignitaries — “have carpeted floors, antique furniture and fine china in the dining rooms.” The only enlisted members allowed to stay there are Medal of Honor recipients.

New report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that this “winter was the warmest on record worldwide.”

“A review of existing computer climate models suggests that global warming could transform the North Pole into an ice-free expanse of ocean at the end of each summer by 2100, scientists reported today.” The lead author of the review even said that their estimate “may be conservative.”

John McKay, one of the purged U.S. Attorneys, yesterday “called for an investigation of the Justice Department’s handling of the firings. McKay said that at very least, there should be an investigation by the DoJ’s Inspector General, but if that was opposed, a special prosecutor should be appointed.”

And finally: “In an emergency measure” Thursday night, the Cocoa Beach City Commission in Florida “banned indoor furniture from the beach, after what they said were rowdy weekend parties around sofas.” “I think we just need to raise the bar a little bit, and this is a way we’re going to start to do it,” said Commissioner Kevin Pruett.