TEXAS & CHIP: Salon Questions Bush Statements
Attempting to tell the "whole story" of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's (R) record with the state's Child Health Insurance Program, Salon.com's "Lie of the Week" column -- which highlights inflated or misleading campaign messages by both Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Bush -- last week skewered Bush. Salon columnist Micah Marshall writes that Bush "loves to promise crowds that 'we'll love the babies.'" According to a Bush press release, "When the [CHIP] program was first implemented, Gov. Bush embraced it as an opportunity to help deliver health coverage to thousands of uninsured children and signed legislation providing health insurance for more than 423,000 children." But Marshall asserts that this is not true, saying that Bush fought "tooth and nail" to limit the federal matching program's eligibility to 150% of the poverty level, "denying coverage to roughly 200,000 Texas children." Ultimately, the governor lost the battle and signed legislation with the "more generous" 200% eligibility level. The assertion that Bush "embraced" the program is, therefore, "a bit of a stretch," Marshall argues. According to Dan Bartlett, Bush's press spokesperson, Bush simply "followed the lead" of the state Legislature's Interim Committee on Children's Health Insurance, which recommended a 150% eligibility cap. When the Legislature approved a bill with a higher limit, Bartlett said, the governor "eagerly signed" it. But Democratic state Rep. Glen Maxey, an interim committee member, called Bartlett's explanation a "blatant, outright lie, a Texas tall tale," adding that the committee never recommended a 150% level. Rather than following the committee's lead, Maxey said, Bush "slow-rolled the process so that the program wouldn't get up and running until roughly a year after it could have gone into effect." Eager to avoid higher Medicaid rolls in an election year, Maxey said Bush wanted to prevent the "Medicaid spillover" that could occur with a less restrictive children's program. This would happen when parents, while enrolling their children in [CHIP], realized that they were eligible for Medicaid benefits, Maxey notes. "Bush worked pretty hard to cover as few kids as possible under the CHIPs program," Marshall concludes, calling Bush's press release on the matter not "just a stretch. It's a lie" (Marshall, 7/7).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.