Kids’ Health Insurance Debate Hinges on Eligibility Limits
Republicans opposed to an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program "quickly accused" Democrats of "exploiting" 12-year-old SCHIP beneficiary Graeme Frost -- who responded for Democrats to President Bush's weekly radio address on Sept. 29 -- "to score political points" and then "wasted little time in going after [Frost] to score their own," the New York Times reports (Herszenhorn, New York Times, 10/10).
Frost and his younger sister, Gemma, relied on SCHIP after a serious car accident in 2004. Republican bloggers have discussed the Frosts' income and assets and questioned whether the family could afford private coverage. The Frosts have refuted all the claims, noting that they have an annual income between $45,000 and $50,000 (Hay Brown, Baltimore Sun, 10/10).
The Frosts also said that they recently have been denied private insurance coverage three times because of pre-existing medical conditions. According to the Times, "what on the surface appears to be yet another partisan feud ... actually cuts to the most substantive debate around SCHIP" -- that of eligibility levels. Democrats argue that the program "is crucially needed to help the working poor" while many Republicans say SCHIP "now helps too many people with the means to help themselves," the Times reports (New York Times, 10/10).
Bloggers on Tuesday who had criticized the Frosts "backed off a bit" after learning more about the financial situation of the family, according to USA Today (Wolf, USA Today, 10/10).
Democrats this week plan to boost their strategy of emphasizing the cost of the Iraq War in contrast to the cost of the vetoed SCHIP bill, Roll Call reports.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said, "Our view is the president, he asked for $200 billion for the war in Iraq, and then referred to children's health care as excessive spending" (Yachnin, Roll Call, 10/10).
Compromise legislation vetoed by Bush last week would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding over the next five years and increased total spending on the program to $60 billion. The additional funding would have been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax. An override vote in the House is scheduled for Oct. 18 (California Healthline, 10/9).
Emanuel said that Democrats would highlight the contrast in a Tuesday night vote on legislation that would target war profiteering, in addition to expected reports from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on waste, fraud and abuse of spending related to the war and a Roll Call, 10/10).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the SCHIP bill would "effectively doubl[e] the number of children that the president is proposing to cover," adding, "When you think of it, for one year we can cover 10 million children at the cost of 40 days in Iraq" (Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/10). Pelosi noted that "the cost of the war in terms of dollars is a very important issue for the American people" (Soraghan, The Hill, 10/10).
In related news, progressive groups have launched a phone campaign against Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) for voting against the SCHIP bill, "potentially causing problems for Marshall, one of the most vulnerable congressional incumbents in the country in the 2008 elections," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. However, Marshall spokesperson Doug Moore said that he is unlikely to change his position on SCHIP and doubted that the vote would affect Marshall's chances of re-election (Kemper/Shepard, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/10).
CNN's "The Situation Room" on Tuesday included a discussion with Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about Republicans' position on the SCHIP bill (Blitzer, "The Situation Room," CNN, 10/9). A transcript of the segment is available online.
NPR's "News & Notes" on Tuesday included a discussion with Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, about issues related to children's health care (Chideya , "News & Notes," NPR, 10/9). Audio of the segment is available online. Tuesday's program also included a discussion with Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, about support for Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill (Chideya , "News & Notes," NPR, 10/9). Audio of the segment is available online.