Top House Republicans Seek Meeting on Kids’ Health Compromise
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Friday sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) requesting a meeting to discuss drafting a new State Children's Health Insurance Program bill, which the House is expected to vote on in two weeks, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 10/19).
The House on Thursday voted 273-156 to sustain President Bush's veto of legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded SCHIP. Supporters of the bill were 13 votes short of overriding the veto.
The legislation would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding for the program over the next five years and increased total SCHIP spending to $60 billion. The additional funding would have been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax (California Healthline, 10/19).
In the letter to Pelosi, Republican leaders wrote, "On Sept. 19, we sent you a letter expressing our interest in working with you to craft a responsible, bipartisan [SCHIP] bill the president will sign into law. We are still awaiting a response to our letter and have yet to be included in any discussions thus far," adding, "We stand ready and willing to meet at a time of your choosing."
Boehner and Blunt are co-sponsors of a Republican alternative SCHIP bill, which would limit eligibility to children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level and would provide tax credits to families with annual incomes between 200% and 300% of the poverty level (CongressDaily, 10/19).
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday is scheduled to meet with a group of moderate Republicans to discuss minor revisions to the SCHIP bill that might win GOP support. The group is expected to suggest capping enrollment in the program to children in families with annual incomes up to 300% of the poverty level and "tightening language" on undocumented immigrants, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 10/22).
March of Dimes President Jennifer Howse on Saturday used the Democrats' weekly radio address to express March of Dimes' support for the vetoed SCHIP bill, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Howse said health insurance is the most important factor in deciding whether children receive health care (AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/21). "Every child needs preventive care," Howse said, adding, "It helps them become healthy, productive adults."
In addition, Howse noted that the bill would have allowed states to cover pregnant women who meet income eligibility requirements. She said, "Maternity care allows health providers to detect and manage conditions early, often preventing more serious health consequences," adding, "Coverage for the full spectrum of maternity care services -- prenatal through postpartum care -- improves the health of both mothers and their babies" (Freking, AP/Omaha World-Herald, 10/20).
PBS' "Washington Week" on Friday included a discussion about SCHIP. Guests on the program included Peter Baker of the Washington Post, Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine, James Kitfield of National Journal and John Dickerson of Slate (Simendinger, "Washington Week," PBS, 10/19).
Video of the segment is available online. A transcript will be available online Monday afternoon.