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“An Aggressive Effort”

“America’s children must also have a healthy start in life. 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. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.”
President Bush, September 2, 2004

Rep. Hank Johnson:
“A bipartisan agreement that comes to the floor today would enroll more than four million more children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program who are eligible, who are already eligible, and based on its past statements you would think that President Bush would be praising this agreement. He is not. In fact, he’s threatening to veto the bill because he says that we are trying to expand the program beyond its original intent. That’s just wrong. Our bipartisan agreement does not — does nothing more than what he vowed to do back in 2004.”

GOP Senator Says Bush Should Put Health Bill Before Policy Goal
Jonathan Weisman and Christopher Lee, Washington Post – September 25, 2007

A senior Senate Republican accused President Bush yesterday of holding a bipartisan expansion of the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program hostage to his broader policy goals of using tax deductions to help people afford private health insurance coverage.

With a five-year, $35 billion expansion of the children’s health insurance program due for a final vote in the House today, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and White House aides agreed that Bush’s opposition to the legislation stems not from its price tag but from far larger health policy issues. The White House wants to use the issue of uninsured children to resurrect the president’s long-dormant proposals to change the federal tax code to help the uninsured, adults and children alike, Grassley said, calling that a laudable goal but unrealistic politically.

“The president has a goal that I share, that we need to take care of the uninsured through private health insurance,” said Grassley, relating a sharp conversation he had with Bush on Thursday morning. “But you can’t put that on this bill.”

Editorials Support Children’s Health Care

Gunfight at the S-Chip Corral
New York Times — September 25, 2007

President Bush accused Congressional Democrats of putting health coverage for poor children at risk by forcing him to veto a bill that he says is a dangerous step toward government-run health care. The opposite is the case. Mr. Bush is the one putting the health of America's children at risk, threatening to veto carefully crafted legislation that would reauthorize and expand the valuable State Children's Health Insurance Program, or S-chip.

We can only hope that fair-minded members of Congress will pass the compromise measure by veto-proof majorities this week. Otherwise, millions of low- and middle-income children would be denied access to a program that has played a critical role in reducing the number of uninsured children over the past decade.

To hear the president tell it, he has long supported the joint federal-state program, and his budget for fiscal year 2008 proposes an additional $5 billion in federal funds spread over the next five years, a 20 percent increase over current levels. What he doesn't say is that this paltry sum is not even enough to provide continued coverage for all of the children who are currently enrolled, let alone enroll millions more of the uninsured.

A compromise bill approved in recent days by Congressional leaders would boost the funding by $35 billion over the next five years, enough to enroll several million more children above the 6.6 million already participating. The bill deserves wide support….

All members of Congress now need to let Mr. Bush know that he is the one playing politics with the health of America's children and then pass this legislation with a veto-proof majority.

Children’s Care at Risk; The President Misses A Chance for A Sensible Compromise
Washington Post — September 21, 2007

President Bush's renewed vow yesterday to veto an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program was unfortunate. Mr. Bush has been threatening a veto for months now. But with the popular and important program set to expire at the end of the month, and congressional negotiators having retreated from the more aggressive and expensive House measure, Mr. Bush had an opportunity also to offer compromise. Instead, at a guns-blazing news conference, he accused Democrats of “putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington” and said the Democrats’ plans “would move millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care.”

This argument would be more credible if the president were proposing a renewal of SCHIP that would at least maintain the decade-old program, which is designed to provide health insurance to children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Instead, the administration wants an increase of $5 billion over five years, an amount that the Congressional Budget Office has said would fall short of what’s needed simply to keep pace with current enrollment levels.

It’s important to understand that most of the $35 billion expansion that lawmakers — including a significant number of Republican senators — are proposing would go to enroll low-income children in Medicaid and SCHIP.

Right on, Orrin!: Senator is right to oppose Bush over CHIP
The Salt Lake Tribune — September 23, 2007

How can a U.S. senator go wrong opposing an unpopular, lame-duck president who has alienated not only many Americans but a good number of his fellow Republicans? Well, we’re talking about Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has long been a seeing-eye supporter of President Bush’s policies – that is, until the president threatened the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Now, Hatch has his back up in defense of CHIP, a program he originally championed that has proven to be an excellent and efficient way to protect the health of the children of working families who can’t afford health insurance.

We can only say: Right on, senator! To his great credit, Hatch is solidly behind a bipartisan compromise bill to reauthorize CHIP despite Bush’s promise to veto any legislation that goes beyond the measly $5 billion funding increase over five years that The Decider deems sufficient. Hatch is pushing a $35 billion increase for CHIP over five years that would extend coverage to 4 million more needy children. The House is scheduled to vote on that compromise bill Tuesday.

Hatch, in his new role, went so far as to call Bush on the red herring the president raised in defense of his indefensible opposition. The compromise legislation, Bush claimed, would cover the children of families making $83,000 a year! The senator calmly pointed out that the president was “absolutely wrong.” Tell it, Orrin!

Compromise Bill to Insure Kids Deserves to Pass
The Arizona Daily Star – September 22, 2007

A much-needed and effective federal health-insurance program for children will end Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action and the White House moves off its ideological pedestal to do what is right for kids… Here we are, days before the State Children’s Health Insurance Program expires, and our elected representatives are locked in a political battle over which children should be covered, who should pay for it and how to protect the private medical insurance marketplace.

The fault belongs at the doorstep of the White House. Both the U.S. House and Senate have approved bills that would, to varying degrees, expand the program known as SCHIP, to cover more kids … A bipartisan compromise bill is evolving. According to the Washington Post on Friday, the compromise would increase SCHIP funding by $35 billion…

This is a good compromise. It allows states to expand coverage to another 4 million uninsured children. Yet President Bush repeated this week his promise to veto any legislation that is more generous than what he wants. He calls for a $5 billion increase over the next five years — a proposal so puny it would end up cutting kids from SCHIP coverage because it won’t even keep up with current costs.

It’s Time to Reauthorize Children’s Health Insurance
La Crosse Tribune — September 23, 2007

President Bush is allowing ideology to prevent millions of children from receiving health insurance.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which goes by the acronym SCHIP, has been a popular program that allows the state and federal government to work together to provide health insurance for children of families that don’t qualify for Medicaid but don’t earn enough to afford insurance. Wisconsin has used the SCHIP program to help pay for insurance for children under the BadgerCare program.

SCHIP does not reinvent the insurance process, nor does it represent a “socialized medicine” intrusion into the private sector. States run the program, under rules developed by the federal government. In the states, the program is regarded as successful in reducing the number of children without health insurance. But even with SCHIP, there remain about 9 million uninsured children….

[President Bush] wants to spend $5 billion [on CHIP] instead of $35 billion. Unfortunately, that will leave far too many children without health coverage. On Thursday, Bush challenged Democrats to pass the modest proposal he supports. Then he said, “If they fail to do so, more than a million children could lose health coverage.” That took a lot of nerve. If Congress does what Bush wants, several million children will be without coverage.

SCHIP’S Presidential “Help”
Bangor Daily News — September 24, 2007

President Bush helped advance the debate over a children’s health insurance bill this summer by refusing to engage in support of either the House or Senate versions, thereby driving Congress to a solid compromise on expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Now he has helped out again by so badly characterizing what the bill would do that wavering members of Congress can be assured that the compromise expansion is the right move.

SCHIP, as the program is known, provides federal subsidies, matched with state dollars, to offer health care coverage to children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The program covers about 4 million children a month. The question in Congress is to what extent SCHIP should be expanded and how it should be funded. The compromise answer from negotiators ended up close to the version produced by the Senate: an additional $35 billion to a total of $60 billion over five years, paid for with a tax increase on tobacco sales.

The program is scheduled to expire Sept. 30 unless reauthorized. President Bush has promised to veto the bill if it arrives with the expansion as currently proposed. Instead, the president has for months insisted on increasing the program by $5 billion, a figure that would not cover inflation, and his administration has suggested new rules limiting enrollment. The president’s argument, made again this week, is that “Democratic leaders in Congress want to put more power in the hands of government by expanding federal health care programs.” He, on the other hand, believes “the best approach is to put more power in the hands of individuals by empowering people and their doctors to make health care decisions that are right for them.”

A very nice thought, but the president misses the detail that people with lower incomes and no health coverage do not have doctors to consult because they can’t afford them. And SCHIP doesn’t stand between patients and doctors – it provides coverage to put them together. This intentional misunderstanding demonstrates better than anything else that the president is not serious about his argument. He merely wants to pay less for a program without regard for the results.

Covering the Kids
The News & Observer — September 23, 2007

President Bush and Congress are entangled in a confrontation over a federal/state program that subsidizes health insurance for children of the working poor who are not covered by Medicaid. At the end of the day, the upper hand should go to Congress, where a majority including Republicans and Democrats wants to extend and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The congressional proposal would cost an additional $35 billion over five years, and cover an additional 4 million children along with the 6.6 million currently enrolled. Bush favors only a fraction of that. He says the proposed expansion goes beyond the original intent of helping poor children and would likely make some kids eligible whose families can afford to buy private insurance.

That, of course, causes the president to trot out scary phrases about “federalized medicine” and the dangers in a national health care system. All that’s missing is a Halloween mask. Unfortunately for him, the old rhetorical bogeyman of a national health care system no longer packs much of a punch. For one reason, the number of Americans uninsured for health care has gone markedly higher during Bush’s time in office. In 2001, roughly 41 million people didn’t have health insurance. The Census Bureau’s 2005 figures put the number at 46.6 million, and it’s likely higher today. It will go higher still if the children’s health program expires on Sept. 30, which it is set to do.

Children's Health
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer — September 23, 2007

President Bush’s bring-’em-on determination to block expansion of American kids’ access to health coverage is deeply troubling. Washington’s entire congressional delegation should focus on areas of agreement to continue the state’s and the nation’s long, bipartisan efforts to provide insurance to more kids from low- and lower-middle-income families.

This state has long been a leader in efforts to enroll more children in coverage and provide the kind of routine health care found in other advanced countries. But, nationally, the number of children without health coverage hit a record 8.7 million last year. In part because of lack of health coverage and preventive treatment, this country ranks near the bottom among developed countries in terms of children’s well-being. Expanding coverage should be a matter of pride and principle for congressional members from Washington and the rest of the country.

Members of a Senate-House conference committee have been working on a compromise measure that would allow new coverage for several million uninsured children nationally. But the president threw more oil onto the partisan fire he has provoked, challenging Democrats Thursday to pass an extension of the current program.

That is absurd, coming from the same president who earlier wouldn’t wait for Senate Republicans to finish work on an excellent expansion compromise before promising a veto. Bush is blatantly misrepresenting compassionate expansion as a step toward government takeover of health care.

Toying With Children
Charlotte Observer — September 23, 2007

…it’s President Bush who has drawn a line in the sand with a plan that won’t provide help for the thousands of children who need it, and whose veto would cut benefits to many of those who are covered now.

The president’s demagoguery in this matter is painfully obvious. The Congressional Budget Office has said his recommended $1 billion a year increase for the next five years is insufficient for covering the cost of insuring all those currently eligible and enrolled…

Last week lawmakers – including some Republicans – crafted a compromise to boost funding by $35 billion, paid for with a higher tobacco tax. That comes closer to meeting the need. Mr. Bush says he’ll veto that plan too. The only renewal plan he favors is his own, saying the other proposals only encourage families to abandon private insurance as states have expanded the program to include middle-income families.

That’s a red herring. Financial woes, rising health care costs and reductions in employer-provided insurance have left many higher-income families without the resources to pay for health insurance. A recent Census report confirms that. States are looking out for the welfare of children by providing SCHIP coverage.

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