Kerry To Launch Effort for Universal Health Coverage for Children
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Wednesday promised to campaign against Republicans who oppose his legislation (S 114) to fund universal health care for children by repealing tax cuts for U.S. residents who earn more than $319,100 annually, the Boston Globe reports. At a news conference, Kerry said that if the legislation stalls he would mobilize his network of grassroots activists -- including 500,000 "citizen sponsors" who signed up on Kerry's Web site in support of the bill -- to work with lobbying groups to campaign against Republican incumbents in 2006 (Klein, Boston Globe, 3/10).
Under Kerry's bill, all residents younger than age 21 with family incomes below the federal poverty level would receive federally funded health insurance through Medicaid. Children in families with annual incomes between 100% and 300% of the federal poverty level would receive benefits funded jointly by states and the federal government. Estimated program costs would be more than $100 billion over five years and $264 billion over 10 years, according to Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University (Maltin, Cox/Contra Costa Times, 3/10).
"Those congressmen and senators who don't pay attention to it and don't become part of the solution are going to be part of the problem, and we're going to work towards their defeat in 2006," Kerry said, adding, "We're going to create accountability in the Congress and in the political process, and we're going to make a difference. We're going to organize, and we're going to support candidates who support health care for all children, and we're going to oppose candidates who stand in the way of providing that health care" (Boston Globe, 3/10).
Also on Wednesday, Kerry unveiled his "Give Voices to Our Values" Internet campaign, which asks uninsured residents to share their personal stories. So far, the campaign has collected and posted more than 20,000 stories from across the nation (Cox/Contra Costa Times, 3/10).
According to the Globe, "Kerry's bill faces long odds" of passing in the Republican-controlled Congress. None of the bill's seven co-sponsors are Republican -- "a necessity for the bill to have a realistic chance of passage," the Globe reports. Kerry sent a letter to all senators Wednesday asking for their support of universal health coverage for children. In addition, he sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asking him to commit to holding a hearing on the bill.
Grassley spokesperson Jill Gerber said Grassley would "take a look at Senator Kerry's bill as he does with all bills assigned to the Finance Committee and then consider his options." Kerry said, "This is not complicated. You can have a tax cut that is not yet in place, not yet passed, for people earning more than ($300,000) a year -- which they haven't asked for and don't need -- or you can have health care for 11 million children in America" (Boston Globe, 3/10).