President Bush Fails America’s Children

Statement of Jeanne Lambrew, Senior Fellow

Bush's veto will block health coverage for millions of children, and it's wrong on policy and ideology, says Senior Fellow Jeanne Lambrew.

President Bush blocked health coverage for millions of low-income children when he vetoed the bipartisan reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. This fiscally responsible, efficient, and effective reauthorization bill would continue funding for this program and cover nearly 4 million uninsured children by 2012. It was passed with large, bipartisan majorities, and supported by governors of both parties who actually run the program. Yet the President objects to SCHIP, claiming it covers children in families with incomes of $83,000 and goes “too far towards federalizing health care.”

The president is wrong on the policy. The bill does not expand eligibility for SCHIP: Instead, it makes it harder for states to expand coverage to higher income children and adults. The vast majority of children gaining insurance under the legislation are already eligible for the program. About two-thirds of children helped by the proposal are previously uninsured, according to nonpartisan estimates, proof that the bill does not simply shift children from private insurance to public insurance.

The president is also wrong on the ideology. He called the legislation “the beginning of the salvo of the encroachment of the federal government on the health care system.” And he threatened to veto it before Congress even voted. In reality, SCHIP is the most private of the public programs, delivered primarily through private health insurers and funded through a block grant. Republican governors know this, as do the Republicans who voted for the legislation. And it is hard to imagine that the health insurers, drug companies, and the American Medical Association would back this kids’ health legislation if it really were a “long step” toward socialized medicine.

The bipartisan majority that passed this legislation, the nation’s governors, and the coalitions that supported this compromise must now redouble their efforts—to override the veto or convince the president that his concerns are unfounded and children’s health care is at stake.

More on SCHIP from the Center for American Progress:

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