Bush Vetoes SCHIP Bill
Wed October 3, 2007 10:04 am

But he must not be very proud of it, because the White House website makes no mention of the veto, which occurred this morning. [Note: the veto message is now available on the White House Web site, at 1:14 p.m. See below.]

One item does refer to “State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization” and says, “President Bush believes that S-CHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) should return to it’s [sic–can’t the White House afford a proofreader?] original focus, which is helping those children in need. The President’s 2008 budget proposed to increase S-CHIP funding by $5 billion over five years, which is a 20 percent increase over current levels of funding. This important program helps children whose families cannot afford private health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicaid to get coverage they need. President Bush calls on Congress to pass a responsible S-CHIP bill.”

The website does refer to “Five Key Myths About President Bush’s Support For SCHIP Reauthorization.” I’m going to publish these as a substitute for the veto message. I encourage knowledgeable readers to respond to the president’s statements:

Myth/Fact: Five Key Myths About President Bush’s Support for SCHIP Reauthorization

MYTH #1: President Bush’s proposal would not help poor children.

FACT: The President strongly supports SCHIP reauthorization and his 2008 budget proposed to increase SCHIP funding by $5 billion over five years. This is a 20 percent increase over current levels of funding.

FACT: The President’s proposal maintains SCHIP’s original purpose of targeting dollars to poor children who need them most.

MYTH #2: Cost is the only reason for President Bush’s veto threat.

FACT: There are numerous problems with Congress’s SCHIP bill. In addition to raising spending by $35 to $50 billion, the legislation:
*Turns a program meant to help poor children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.
*Would move millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care.
*Is an incremental step toward the Democrats’ goal of a government-run health care system.
*Raises taxes on working Americans.
*Relies on a budget gimmick that drops SCHIP funding by almost 80 percent in year six, masking future deficits and ultimately resulting in a choice between higher taxes or forcing millions of children to lose health insurance.
*Creates new funding schemes inviting states to overspend their budgets and shift health care costs to the Federal government by using SCHIP funding to offset state Medicaid spending.
*Provides incentives to states to relax protections against enrolling ineligible individuals, including illegal immigrants.

MYTH #3: President Bush is wrong in claiming the Senate SCHIP bill would cover children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 per year (400 percent of the Federal poverty level).

FACT: The Senate bill grandfathers in New York at a higher SCHIP match rate than the rest of the country – allowing SCHIP to cover children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 per year.

FACT: The Senate SCHIP bill also grandfathers in New Jersey’s program at 350 percent of the Federal poverty level, which includes children in families with incomes of $72,000 a year.

MYTH #4: Democrats are not seeking a political victory by passing a bill they know will be vetoed.

FACT: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL): “If he vetoes the bill, it’s a political victory for us.” (Robert Pear, “Veto Risk Seen In Compromise On Child Health,” The New York Times, 9/17/07)

FACT: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD): “With a bill on its way to the president’s desk by the end of next week, Democrats will be safe in blaming the White House for allowing the program to expire, according to House Majority Leader Hoyer.” (Fawn Johnson, “Negotiators Strike SCHIP Deal, Agree To Slightly Modified Senate Measure,” National Journal’s CongressDaily, 9/19/07)

FACT: House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark (D-CA): “The Medicare and Medicaid portions of CHAMP have been abandoned for rhetorical and/or political reasons that are unclear to me.” (Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), Dear Democratic Colleague Letter, 9/20/07)

MYTH #5: President Bush will be responsible if SCHIP is not reauthorized by September 30.

FACT: Congress is irresponsibly waiting until just before SCHIP expires on September 30 to pass a final bill they know will be vetoed. Democrats have known for months that President Bush would veto a bill like the one they intend to send him.

FACT: One of the Democrats’ leaders has even said such a veto would be a “political victory.” Members of Congress are putting health coverage for poor children at risk just so they can score political points in Washington.

FACT: President Bush has called on Congress to pass a clean, temporary extension of the current SCHIP program that he can sign by September 30. The President does not believe health coverage for poor children should be held hostage while political ads are being made and new polls are being taken.

FACT: The President has instructed HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to work with states to mitigate the resulting damage if Congress allows SCHIP to lapse.

——————-

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN’S REMARKS IN OPPOSITION TO THE SCHIP EXPANSION

Mr. President:

There’s no doubt in anyone’s minds that the SCHIP program will continue. That is a certainty, as certain as anything can be. The question is whether the SCHIP program will remain true to its target population, which was contemplated by Congress when it passed with strong bipartisan support, or whether it will expand into a new burgeoning federal program that’s lost sight of its original mission and which in the minds of some represents another incremental step toward a federal government takeover of our health care system in America.

Let there be no doubt about it–a federal, Washington run health care system would be bad for the children and the people of this country. There’s at least three things you can guarantee if Washington takes control of your health care. One: It will be incredibly expensive. In other words, taxes will have to go up to pay for it. Two: It will be incredibly bureaucratic, and some bureaucrat with a green eyeshade will decide what kind of health care you and your family gets. Three: There will be rationing of health care.

That same government bureaucrat will decide whether you get a diagnostic test, whether you get an operation when you need it, and what other kind of health care decisions you can make, when in fact the choices will be taken from individuals and be given to the government. That’s a bad idea, although there are some who have advocated this for many years, including the leading Democratic candidate for president of the United States, [who] has advocated a government run health care system since the early nineties.

This cannot be an expansion of a wildly successful program that’s lost its focus of the poor children of America. And how in the world could I possibly say that? Well, this bill we’re debating now raises spending by 140%–140%–at a time when my constituents are telling me that the federal government has lost its way on spending and are worried that they’re going to see consequential increases in their tax burden as a result of out of control federal spending.

Along with virtually everyone else in Congress, I believe that the federal SCHIP program should be renewed, and will be renewed. I voted for a renewal bill called Kids First that provided $10 billion in addition to the $35 billion over five years. It would enroll 1.3 million new children in SCHIP. But the majority has rejected that as too miserly. And who do they want to cover with the SCHIP program? Number one, they want to cover adults in 14 states, and in New York City they want to be able to cover up to 400 percent of poverty. A family making $82,000 a year, half of whom would be displaced from their private health insurance to get government funded insurance courtesy of the beleaguered American taxpayer. And that’s wrong.

The other inadvertent consequence of this will be [that] because government doesn’t know how to control health care costs except to ration access to health care, we’re going to see more and more people who get displaced from private insurance to go on the government insurance, who will find that low reimbursement rates close the door to access to health care providers. In the city of Austin recently there was a story that said only 18% of physicians accept new Medicare patients. Eighteen percent.

The question was why. The answer is because federal Medicare reimbursement rates are so low, doctors can’t afford to accept new Medicare patients and keep their doors open. In a similar fashion, the SCHIP rate is regulated by the federal government, as is the Medicaid rate. The only way many physicians and health care providers keep their doors open is to have a mix of government subsidized health coverage and private health insurance, and we all know that private health insurance carries the cost that allows many health care providers to keep their doors open.

Mr. President, it is not conspiracy theories, it is not an exaggeration, to say that this is an incremental step toward that single payer Washington controlled health care system. Right now the federal government pays 50% of the cost of the health care system today, and I think it’s a bad idea to lose sight of the original target for SCHIP, which is children whose families make up to 200% of poverty level, who have more money that they can make and still qualify for Medicaid, but we should do everything in our power to recommit to those children that we’re going to make sure that the money that Congress appropriates, takes out of the pocket of the taxpayers, and provides in terms of health care benefits to them, is true to the vision that Congress originally intended, and that money that could go to expanding health care coverage to these kids that come from [homes] of relatively modest incomes is not taken and provided for adult coverage or middle income coverage in places like New York–up to 400% of poverty levels.

So there’s a lot of misinformation and indeed downright demagoguery that’s going on in the media and elsewhere with regard to what is happening here. And I hope we will make one thing clear, that every member of the United States Congress, certainly this senator, supports a continuation and reauthorization of SCHIP. It is a canard to suggest that anyone is for denying access to health care for the children that have benefitted historically and should benefit from the SCHIP program. But it is simply a Trojan Horse to suggest that we are merely reauthorizing this program, because what is happening is that we are seeing a dramatic expansion of federal spending, losing sight of the targeted population and taking another incremental step toward a disastrous Washington controlled and run health care system that will be expensive to the American taxpayer, and which will result in rationing of health care–something that is not in the best interest of the American people.

—————–
Read President Bush’s Veto Message to The House of Representatives here.

————————-

My own comments:

The real fight here is not over the spectre of government-run health care. CHIP is a far cry from that. It is government subsidized, not government run. Providers and insurance companies, not government bureaucrats, make the decisions. Families purchase health care from private insurers with the help of the federal subsidy, and they must also pay a premium.

The real fight is over the expansion of the program from covering families with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level to families up to 300% of the poverty level. This is a simple issue. The number of uninsured kids in the United States is 9 million. Raising the family eligibility level from 200% of poverty to 300% would provide coverage to 4 million more kids. Either you think that’s a worthy use of taxpayers’ money or you don’t.

If I were trying to make a case for a veto, I’d do exactly what the president did. I’d say that the program is covering adults and people in the middle class. And I’d do what John Cornyn did, which is talk about the threat of government-run health care. Because it’s very hard to talk about why, with the limited money that the federal government has available, it’s a bad idea to spend some of it on health insurance for children. Especially if you’re from Texas, the state with the most uninsured children.

The simplest way for the issue to be resolved is for the Democrats to address the Republicans’ criticisms. (1) No more insuring of adults, except for pregnant women. (2) No earmarks or waivers for states to go above 300% of poverty. The longer this drags on, the worse it’s going to be for Republicans who are up for reelection in 2008.

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