Veto of Kids’ Insurance Bill Could Hurt California Reform
Efforts to expand health insurance coverage in California could face a major hurdle in President Bush's threat to veto legislation that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
A bill (S 1893) pending in the U.S. Senate would add $35 billion over the next five years to SCHIP through a tobacco tax increase of 61 cents per pack, and a House bill (HR 3162) seeks to add $50 billion to the $25 billion program using revenue from a tobacco tax hike and by decreasing payments to private insurers that participate in Medicare (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/30).
President Bush has threatened to veto both bills.
Instead, Bush proposes to add $5 billion over the next five years to the program, which is set to expire in September. Bush also proposes reducing eligibility for the program from 250% to 200% of the federal poverty level.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic legislators are pushing to expand eligibility for Healthy Families to 300% of the poverty level. The proposal is a key provision in their plans to overhaul California's health care system and expand coverage.
Lesley Cummings -- executive director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers Healthy Families -- said the state needs "more money to just keep things as they are -- much less to expand them further."
Healthy Families is California's version of SCHIP.
The state currently receives $800 million annually to fund Healthy Families and spends $1.3 billion on the program.
More than 190,000 children in California live in families whose incomes exceed 200% of the poverty level, Cummings said. She added, "Under the president's proposal, we would have to disenroll a lot of children" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 7/29).
In California, the president's proposal would terminate coverage for about 200,000 children and contribute to an increase in the number of uninsured children each year after that, according to a study by the California HealthCare Foundation (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/30).
Almost one million children nationwide would lose coverage by 2012 under Bush's proposal, the CHCF study projects.
Research by Peter Harbage of the New America Foundation projects that California alone would need an additional $4.2 billion over five years to maintain coverage for eligible children (Sacramento Bee, 7/29).
Summaries of an editorial and opinion piece regarding funding and reauthorization of SCHIP appear below.
- San Francisco Chronicle: "California must do whatever it can to reform its health care system," a Chronicle editorial states. "But we need all the help we can get from our representatives in Washington," according to the editorial. Unfortunately, "President Bush seems far more committed to his costly surge in Iraq than a far less expensive surge in health coverage for children," the editorial states (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/27).
- Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Monterey County Herald: "A healthy SCHIP reauthorization is critical if we are to continue to provide health coverage to California's children at current levels and support our state legislative efforts to expand coverage to more children," Farr and Laird write in a Herald opinion piece. "It's so important that Congress support a SCHIP reauthorization of $50 billion in new funds that includes state flexibility on ways to cover more children," Farr and Laird write (Farr/Laird, Monterey County Herald, 7/29).
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