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White House Faces Congressional Rebellion over Children's Health Care

July 25, 2007

New York kids may be caught in the middle of a health care showdown between Congress and President Bush. At issue is the renewal of S-CHIP, the State-Children's Health Insurance Program. The Senate Finance Committee wants a $35 billion reauthorization to provide coverage for nine million children, to be funded by a new federal cigarette tax. The president has threatened a veto, but Gwen O'Shea with the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island says the U.S. House may call for a bigger increase, and she says that's needed to meet the goal of covering all kids.

"Children in this country deserve equal access regardless of their parents' income, their socio-economic status, and there has been bipartisan support of that very notion."

The Senate proposal would maintain coverage for 6.5 million children and add benefits for 3.5 million more low-income kids. President Bush is threatening to veto the increased coverage, saying it would deprive Americans of what he called "the choice and competition of the private market."

"It would cause huge increases in government spending, which could lead to higher taxes. It would result in rationing, inefficiency and long waiting lines. It would replace the doctor-patient relationship with dependency on people here in Washington, D.C."

Supporters of increased funding say private insurers are already failing low-income kids, and lack of preventive care is leading to higher health costs down the road. Bush's potential veto is opposed even by some members of his own party, including the author of S-CHIP, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

O'Shea emphasizes an increase is needed just to avoid dropping two million kids from the program.

"By having the bill reauthorized at $50 billion, we would be able to keep every child that's currently enrolled in the program enrolled. And due to the cost of inflation and rising cost of health care, be able to keep them enrolled at the same level that they're enrolled now."

Robert Knight/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY