Reauthorization of Kids’ Insurance Sparks Debate
The debate between Congress and the administration of President Bush "is over who should be enrolled in" the State Children's Health Insurance Program, not whether the program should be reauthorized, a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/17).
Legislation (HR 3162) in the House to reauthorize SCHIP would reduce payments to Medicare Advantage plans and increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack to increase funding for SCHIP by about $50 billion over five years. The bill also would make other revisions to Medicare.
The Senate bill to reauthorize SCHIP would increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents per pack to boost funding for the program by $35 billion over five years.
Bush has said he would veto the measures. Bush has proposed a $5 billion increase over five years for SCHIP, which would raise the program's total five-year funding to $30 billion, and said he would veto the House and Senate versions (California Healthline, 8/15).
According to the editorial, Democratic lawmakers are opposing "better efforts" to expand children's health coverage, such as direct assistance to help pay for private insurance, because those initiatives "won't do what is dear to Democrats' hearts: move the country toward dependence on government programs for health care" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/17).
The Wall Street Journal on Friday published letters to the editor addressing an Aug. 9 editorial about SCHIP. According to the editorial, the "good news" in the debate over SCHIP "is that the House legislation is so egregious that it barely passed 225-204" and that President Bush "has promised to veto a major expansion of the SCHIP program." The editorial concluded, "Democrats think they have a political winner in the guise of helping 'children,' but the House bill shows that their higher priority is expanding government" (California Healthline, 8/9). Summaries of letters to the editor in response appear below.
- Judith Stein: The House SCHIP bill "protects Medicare by reducing outlandish overpayments to private plans that threaten the future of the entire Medicare program," Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. Stein continues, "What little benefit some beneficiaries gain from these plans comes at the expense of the vast majority of people with Medicare and with a price tag of $150 billion." The SCHIP bill "phases out plan subsidies and uses the savings to help insure children and all Medicare beneficiaries," which is "good medicine for all generations," Stein concludes (Stein, Wall Street Journal, 8/17).
- Karen Lashman: "SCHIP is not a Democratic plan to 'expand government control of health care and undermine private insurance,'" as the editorial stated, Lashman, vice president of policy at the Children's Defense Fund, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. Lashman continues, "Millions of uninsured children are currently eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but are not enrolled, and this bill will increase funding and make improvements so that children who already qualify will actually get health coverage." She concludes, "Investing in our children's health is supported by the vast majority of Americans across the political spectrum," and, while the Journal "takes political shots about health care, nearly nine million children are suffering without health insurance" (Lashman, Wall Street Journal, 8/17).