By threatening to veto crucial child-health legislation, President Bush is playing politics with kids' lives. Among those lives: More than 9,000 Volusia and Flagler county children who could lose coverage if the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) isn't reauthorized.
The program's effectiveness should be obvious to anyone who takes an honest look. Healthy Kids (
But roughly 9 million children still lack coverage. Bush is unhappy with a Senate compromise that would add $35 billion in federal funding to the program and allow 3 million children to be added to the program. Presumably, he's even less pleased with a House proposal that would add $50 billion. The House proposal would go much farther toward eliminating the large number of uninsured children, and both programs would be funded by an increased cigarette tax and matched nearly dollar-for-dollar by state governments.
Bush's own proposal would increase funding by a miserly $5 billion, which, after inflation, actually translates into a $9 billion reduction in funding over the next five years.
The president's flimsy arguments against a real expansion of S-CHIP are easy to knock down. He complains that the program would subsidize coverage to families making as much as $80,000 a year. What he fails to say is that states would make that call -- and receive no extra federal funds for doing so. (Only one state --
Bush tipped his hand most, however, in a press conference Thursday when he started talking about pushing S-CHIP toward an 'individual market' and a 'consumer-based system.' Translated, that suggests that Bush is eyeing a drastic shift to a program that's likely to be less effective -- employing gimmicks like health savings accounts and high-deductible plans, putting more profit in the hands of the health-insurance and finance industries while erasing economies of scale and wrecking the quality-control measures that keep parental satisfaction so high.
Bush wants to abandon American children -- and their parents -- to the vagaries of the same marketplace that denied them coverage in the first place. It's a position so reckless and irresponsible as to be immoral -- and one Congress should reject by approving S-CHIP legislation by a veto-proof margin.