The President vetoed the bill that sought to expand the S-CHIP program and our usual suspects piped up with the same old hyperbole:
“Playing politics with the health care coverage of 10 million children is unacceptable, but that is exactly what President Bush did today when he vetoed H.R. 976, the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as RIte Care in Rhode Island,” Rep. Jim Langevin said.
Langevin called it a “bipartisan plan” that would help more than 30,000 low-income Rhode Island children while not changing eligibility rules.
“I look forward to the opportunity to cast my vote to override this unfortunate and misguided veto,” Langevin said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the veto “is a stunning rejection of one of America’s most deeply-held convictions: that every family, and every child, must have access to health care they can afford.”
Rep. Patrick Kennedy said it is “unconscionable” that Bush would veto something “aimed at providing 10 million children the health care they deserve. The President’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is a slap in the face to families all across America.”
The fact is, the President would support a reauthorization, just not at the level Congress wants. And they knew it, so this is being played for political points, nothing else. Sure, there are some Republican Senators who are playing along, but I think it’s because they like the idea of expanding government health-care into the middle-class for, shall we say, electoral reasons…Here’s the President’s explanation:
First of all, the intent of the S-CHIP legislation passed previous to my administration is to help poor children’s families buy the children health care, or get them on health care. That’s what it is intended to do. Poor children in America are covered by what’s called Medicaid. We spend about — this year — about $35.5 billion on poor children’s health insurance….The S-CHIP program was supposed to help those poor families, the children of poor families have the ability to get health insurance for their children. I strongly support the program. I like the idea of helping those who are poor be able to get health coverage for their children….As a matter of fact, my budget — the budget request I put in said, let’s increase the spending to make sure that the program does what it’s supposed to do: sign up poor children for S-CHIP….
I want to tell you a startling statistic, that based on their own states’ projections — in other words, this isn’t a federal projection, it’s the states saying this is what’s happening — states like New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Illinois and New Mexico spend more money on adults in the S-CHIP program than they do on children. In other words, the initial intent of the program is not being recognized, is not being met.
It is estimated by — here’s the thing, just so you know, this program expands coverage, federal coverage up to families earning $83,000 a year. That doesn’t sound poor to me. The intent of the program was to focus on poor children, not adults or families earning up to $83,000 a year….
Some have run the numbers and discovered the extent of the bloat:
This would involve expanding the program to cover 4 million more children and adding $35 Billion to its cost, over the next five years. Assuming the dollars are base year and uniformly phased, the Senate version of S-CHIP makes the annual cost of the program increase from $4 Billion to $11 Billion. This would increase program costs by 175% on the top line.
The unit cost per child insured also increases dramatically. The original program insured 6.9 million children, at a price of $4 Billion a year, for a unit price per child insured of approximately $580. The Senate program extension would insure roughly 11 Million children at approximately $11 Billion per year, for a cost of $1,000 per child. This is an increase of $420 per child, or a unit cost growth of 72%.
Finally, one of the sponsors of the original S-CHIP legislation is against this new expansion:
“I want to thank Majority Leader Henry Reid for recognizing that I cast the only correct vote about SCHIP in the state of Maryland,” said Congressman Roscoe Bartlett upon learning that the Senate Majority Leader mentioned today there was only one vote in Maryland to sustain the President’s veto of the SCHIP expansion.
Congressman Bartlett added, “I’m proud that I voted to create the SCHIP program in 1997. I want to help the working poor, but Democrats are demanding that SCHIP be expanded to have government-controlled, taxpayer-paid health care for millions of children who already have private health coverage.”
And so are some Republicans.