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Condition: Critical for 6,000 NH "Healthy Kids"

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July 26, 2007

It's crunch time for New Hampshire's "Healthy Kids." Congress and President Bush are headed for a showdown over renewal of the State-Children's Health Insurance Program, also known as the S-CHIP. Caught between them are 6,000 Granite State low-income children whose families are poor enough for Congress, but not poor enough for the White House. That has executive director Tricia Brooks of the New Hampshire Healthy Kids program wondering if the President knows what it costs to live in the Granite State.

"What 200 percent of the poverty level will buy in Texas is a lot more than it buys in New Hampshire, and this is why it's really critical that we have eligibility established at the levels that we do."

The current national poverty level for a family of four is $20,000 a year, and President Bush wants to limit S-CHIP to families making no more than twice that, or $40,000 per year.

Brooks says if the President vetoes the bill now in the Senate, 6,000 kids in New Hampshire could lose their coverage, unless the state makes up $10 million over the next five years.

President Bush wants Congress to change the bill to provide coverage for fewer children, saying the uninsured can get their care from emergency rooms, and additional federal support 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."

Brooks finds Bush's alternative - emergency room care for uninsured kids - neither a cost-effective nor healthy solution.

"If we want kids to go to school healthy, then we need to make sure that they can get into primary care. Emergency rooms are not a choice, and the President is short-sighted in thinking that that's a good plan."

President Bush's complete comments, made June 27, 2007, are available at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/06/20070627-10.pod.a.mp3.

John Robinson/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NH