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Bush Crushes Health Care for Uninsured Children

Timeline of Bush Push to Cripple SCHIP

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Bush Crushes Health Care for Uninsured Children

Photo on Sept 6, 2007 of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leading support of SCHIP program: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On October 3, 2007, President Bush vetoed legislation passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis to provide $35 billion more over 5 years to SCHIP. This legislation was staunchly supported by both Democratic and Republican state governors.

In December 2007, Congress passed a second SCHIP bill, one that incorporated a few new eligibility restrictions, but President Bush also vetoed that legislation.

The legislation was supported by hundreds of top organizations, including the YMCA, United Way of America, AARP and eve America’s Health Insurance Plans, the largest insurance lobbying group in the U.S.

In contrast, the U.S. spends $35 billion on the Iraq War in three months in 2007. (See Iraq War Statistics & Results, Updated.)

Said conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, "Covering these children is worth every penny."

What Is SCHIP?

SCHIP is a national program created for uninsured children from families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, yet who cannot afford to buy private insurance. Federal funds are sent to the states, which administer the programs.

In 2006, 6.9 million children from low-income families received medical care under SCHIP, and 29.4 million poverty-level children were covered by Medicaid. However, 8 million American children from low-income families remain uninsured and received no health care.

When SCHIP was established 10 years ago, family eligibility for participation was set at twice the federally-designated poverty level.

However, the Clinton and Bush administrations freely granted federal waivers allowing 19 states to expand eligibility beyond the 200-percent-of-poverty threshold. States granted waivers included:

  • California - 250%
  • Georgia - 235%
  • Hawaii - 300%
  • Illinois - no limit for uninsured children
  • Maryland - 300%
  • Massachusetts - 300%
  • Minnesota - 280%
  • Missouri - 300%
  • New Jersey - 350%
  • New York - 400%
  • Pennsylvania - 300%
  • Tennessee - 250%
  • Washington - 250%

The federal government spent $25 billion on SCHIP over five years, from 2002 to 2006, which is equal to federal spending in Iraq for about two months in 2008.

For more, see Health Insurance for Uninsured Children by Robert Longley, About.com Guide to U.S. Gov't Info.

Bipartisan Congressional Support for SCHIP

SCHIP developments in 2007, in a nutshell:

  • February- The Bush budget proposal for 2007-08 included an extremely modest SCHIP increase of $4.8 billion over 5 years.

    The Congressional Budget Office concluded "that the program would require about $14 billion in new money over five years---on top of current $5 billion in annual spending---merely to keep covering the same number of children, in part because of rising health-care costs." (Source: Washington Post, July 19, 2007)

  • March 31 - The White House announced intent to strenuously fight Democratic plans to signficantly increase SCHIP funding to cover both rising health care costs and more uninsured children.

  • Aug 1 - The House defied the White House, and passed H.R. 3162: Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007, by a vote of 225 - 204, which was supported by 95% of Democrats and opposed by 98% of Republicans.

    The House bill adds $50 billion to SCHIP over 5 years, plus rolls back several years of Republican cutbacks to Medicare. The House vote was not sufficient to overcome a presidential veto.

  • Aug 2 - The Senate easily passed S. 1893: Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, by a strong bipartisan vote of 68-31, which is enough to overcome a presidential veto.

    The Senate bill provides for $35 billion in additional SCHIP funding over 5 years, which would cover 3 million more children and cover rising health care costs.

  • Aug 17 - Stung by Congress ignoring his funding directives, President Bush issued new SCHIP eligibility rules mandating that before any state may provide services to families with incomes above 250% of the poverty level, that state must first enroll "at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program." (Source: New York Times, August 20, 2007.)

    This stiff criteria is an impossible goal, explains the New York Times:

    "... the 95 percent goal seems virtually unattainable in an income group that is notoriously hard to reach, as the administration should know... No state has reached 95 percent, so all may ultimately be disqualified."

  • Sept 17 - House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise between the the two bills expanding SCHIP to cover more children who have no health care insurance. The final bill increases funding by $35 billion over 5 years, and deletes the House Medicare provision that caused numerous Republicans to vote NO on August 1.

    The legislation also rolls back most of the radical restrictions newly set by President Bush on August 17.(Source: New York Times, Sept 17, 2007.)

  • Sept 25 - The House votes 265-159 to pass the final SCHIP bill, which is 15 votes short to override a veto.

  • Sept 27 - The Senate votes 67-29 to pass the final bill, which is a veto-proof majority.

  • Oct 3 - President George W. Bush vetoes SCHIP legislation.

  • Nov-Dec - Congress passes a second SCHIP bill, one that incorporates a few new eligibility restrictions, but President Bush also vetoes this legislation.

  • Dec - As a stopgap measure, Congress passes H.R. 3584, The SCHIP Extension Act of 2007, to reauthorize the existing program for 18 months. President Bush signed the bill on December 27, 2007.

  • April 18, 2008 - The GAO issued a legal opinion striking down the President's newly restrictive SCHIP eligibility rules that he issues on August 17, 2007.

    The GAO ruled that the Bush administration violated federal law when it restricted states' ability to provide health insurance to children of middle-class families.

Meanwhile, 8 million U.S. children have no health care, and millions more may lose SCHIP coverage under the president's budget.

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