Republican Senators Urge Bush To OK Kids’ Health Insurance Bill
President Bush should not threaten to veto Senate legislation to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Thursday, CongressDaily reports.
According to a statement from the senators, the compromise legislation represents the best chance for Republicans to play a role in SCHIP reauthorization (Johnson, CongressDaily, 7/12).
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday announced it had reached a bipartisan agreement on a bill to reauthorize and expand SCHIP by $35 billion over five years.
The expansion would be funded by a 61-cent-per-pack federal cigarette tax increase. The deal would require more stringent eligibility requirements for the program, including set income limits on children.
In addition, no additional parents would be eligible to enroll in SCHIP, although pregnant women would continue to be eligible. Childless adults would be moved to Medicaid. Democrats originally proposed providing an additional $50 billion over five years for the program (California Healthline, 7/11).
Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is expected to release the proposal on Friday with a committee mark up on July 17 (Wayne, CQ HealthBeat, 7/12).
Grassley and Hatch in a joint statement said, "It's disappointing, even a little unbelievable, to hear talk about administration officials wanting a veto of a legislative proposal they haven't even seen yet -- because it isn't even finalized yet" (Freking, AP/Houston Chronicle, 7/12).
They added, "What the administration needs to understand is that if a bipartisan plan isn't achieved, then the Democratic-controlled Congress will, at the very least, extend the current program with all the terrible policy provisions that have evolved, such as waivers for childless adults and coverage for higher-income kids."
Grassley and Hatch expressed their support of Bush's tax credits for the purchase of individual insurance policies but said it is "not realistic" because of the "lack of bipartisan support" (CQ HealthBeat, 7/12).
However, some Republican aides have said that Grassley and Hatch's opinion on SCHIP "represents a minority of GOP members," according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 7/12).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said the president's advisers would recommend a veto if lawmakers approve a large expansion of SCHIP. Fratto said, "We intend to reauthorize this important program in a way that adheres to the program's mission -- helping poor children" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 7/12).
In related news, House Democrats and Republicans are expected to release separate SCHIP bills as early as next week, "leading up to what could be a massive floor battle over health policy in September," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 7/13).
Summaries of editorials discussing SCHIP appear below.
- Philadelphia Inquirer: "Even though SCHIP has bipartisan roots, its renewal has resurrected an old conservative bogeyman: socialized medicine," with Bush "leading the charge," according to an Inquirer editorial. It continues, "While some purely market-based strategies might also help insure more children, SCHIP has stood the test of time," and "it would be outrageous if health care politics-as-usual in Washington were to short-circuit renewal of" the program (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/13).
Washington Post: "[E]arly reports indicate that" the Senate Finance Committee's SCHIP bill "will not contain a dental [care] guarantee" because bill authors "argue that it's not needed since most states already provide dental care under SCHIP," according to a Post editorial. "That a federal guarantee would stabilize an important benefit is more reason than ever to include such a provision" because "dental care is seen as discretionary" and "is vulnerable to cutting," according to the editorial (Washington Post, 7/13).