President Again Rejects Bill To Expand Kids’ Health Care Coverage
President Bush on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the New York Times reports.
Lawmakers sent Bush the bill 10 days ago, and he had until Wednesday to veto it or allow it to become law (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 12/13). The legislation (HR 3963) would have expanded the program to cover 10 million children and increased spending on the program by $35 billion over five years, funded with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax. It would have limited coverage to children in families with annual incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level. Bush vetoed another version of the bill in October (California Healthline, 11/5).
Bush said that he vetoed the legislation for the same reasons as the first SCHIP bill: It raised taxes and provided health care coverage for children in middle-income families rather than focusing on children in lower-income families (Lee, Washington Post, 12/13).
Bush in a statement said, "This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction," adding, "Ultimately, our nation's goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage" (Lengell, Washington Times, 12/13).
House Democrats have scheduled a veto override vote for Jan. 23, 2008 (Loven, AP/Denver Post, 12/13). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has supported the SCHIP bills, said he is unwilling to end discussions on a compromise bill. "I remain hopeful that we will be able to reach a compromise with the House by late January," Hatch said (Canham, Salt Lake Tribune, 12/13).
When vetoing the bill, Bush urged lawmakers to pass a temporary extension of the program before the holiday break. Lawmakers on Wednesday said that they intend to pass an extension of SCHIP "well into 2008 in basically its current form," according to the AP/Post.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that lawmakers on Thursday will include the SCHIP extension in a bill that will make revisions to Medicare. Hoyer declined to provide an estimate of the cost or the length of the extension, but he noted that lawmakers "obviously need to put additional money" into the program to account for state budgetary shortfalls (AP/Denver Post, 12/13).
Both the Democratic and Republican Medicare packages include an extension of SCHIP, CongressDaily reports. Funding for the program expires on Friday (Armstrong, CQ Today, 12/12). The Congressional Budget Office said that covering state shortfalls will cost $800 million (Johnson/Koffler, CongressDaily, 12/12).
C-SPAN video of a news conference with House Democrats on SCHIP is available online. Participants included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Hoyer, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) (C-SPAN, 12/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.