Health Insurance for Kids?

Public Opinion by Ruy Teixeira

The idea that kids should have health insurance seems pretty hard to object to. But that hasn’t stopped the Bush administration. Congress this week has been marking up bills for the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP—the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Objections have been heard from many conservatives, and President Bush has even threatened to veto the bill.

The public, on the other hand, seems very supportive of expanding health coverage for children and even thinks that we should make such coverage universal.

A June Democracy Corps poll last month found that almost half the public—47 percent—chose “expand health coverage to every child in the U.S. through the existing State Children’s Health Insurance Program” as one of the top two priorities that Congress should focus on in the coming year. They chose this more than they chose any other option, including immigration reform (36 percent), promoting alternative energy and energy conservation (29 percent), reforming the alternative minimum tax (29 percent), reforming lobbying (15 percent), and putting labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (15 percent).

One objection that has been made to the proposed bills is that increased cigarette taxes would provide some of the funding for the program expansion. Would that faze the public? Not according to a May 2007 CNN poll. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of the public surveyed said they would favor “a national health insurance program for all children under the age of 18, even if this would require higher taxes,” compared to just 25 percent who dissented.

The public’s made up its mind on this one. Let’s hope the Bush administration follows suit.

Read more about the Center for American Progress’s policies on SCHIP: