Bush Urges Lawmakers To Avoid Kids’ Health Insurance Expansion
President Bush on Wednesday said that proposals by Democratic and some moderate Republican lawmakers to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program would result in more "incremental steps down the path to government-run health care for every American," a move that Bush said is "wrong ... for our nation," the Los Angeles Times reports.
Many Democratic lawmakers support proposals to increase funds for SCHIP, which will expire in September, by about $50 billion over five years (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 6/28).
Bush has proposed to increase funds for SCHIP by $4.8 billion over five years.
In addition, Bush has proposed to reduce federal funds for states that have expanded SCHIP eligibility to children in families with annual incomes more than 200% of the federal poverty level to refocus the program on low-income, uninsured children. At least 17 states would lose federal funds as a result of the proposal (California Healthline, 4/2).
At a White House event on Wednesday, Bush said that a single-payer health care system would eliminate choice and competition; lead to large increases in federal spending that could result in higher taxes; and "result in rationing, inefficiency and long wait lines."
In addition, Bush said he would consider revisions to his proposal to change the tax code to help make private health insurance more affordable for middle-income U.S. residents (Los Angeles Times, 6/28).
Bush said that he would discuss whether residents should receive a standard deduction, as he has proposed, or a tax credit.
He said, "Just as tax incentives for home ownership have encouraged more Americans to buy homes through the private housing market, new incentives for health insurance would lead more Americans to buy coverage through the private health insurance market."
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "President Bush's proposal was dead on arrival five months ago. Nothing's changed." Stark added, "Rather than expand a successful program, Bush's plan would pull the rug out from under the 160 million working families who currently receive health care through their employer" (CongressDaily, 6/28).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that SCHIP combines "the best of public and private solutions" and that the replacement of proposals to expand the program with "controversial health care tax proposals" would "not be a responsible path to take."
However, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that some lawmakers have a "robust interest" in the proposal to change the tax code. Leavitt said, "We believe this debate will mature as part of the SCHIP discussion" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 6/27).