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Time Running Out for Oregon Kids' Insurance Program

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 By Dondrea Warner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR, Contact
December 13, 2007

Portland, OR – It was down to the wire for the State Children's Health Insurance (S-CHIP) program, set to expire this Friday. Late yesterday, President Bush dealt children's advocates another blow, with his second veto this year of legislation that would have reauthorized funding for the state-administered program.

The veto has almost three dozen organizations across Oregon scrambling to ask Congress to take emergency action. Beth Boyd-Flynn, of the Oregon Medical Association, says there are more than 100,000 Oregon children without health insurance, and investing in their health is a smart move.

"Making sure there is funding for S-CHIP makes it possible for physicians to treat more children, to make sure they get taken care of. Making sure that kids have continuity of care reduces overall health care costs in the long term."

Boyd-Flynn explains that without insurance, doctors tend to see kids who aren't getting care when they should.

"They're seeing kids all the time who come in when illnesses have progressed past the easily treatable point, when they get sicker if they wait longer to get care."

Bush has said he believes Congress wants to expand the program too much, which would hurt the private insurance industry. After his first veto, Democrats had rewritten the legislation to create more firm caps on income eligibility, and to ban children of illegal immigrants from qualifying. But that wasn't enough to satisfy the White House, and it appears there won't be sufficient votes for a veto override. The expansion would have been funded through an increase in tobacco taxes. Democrats will now seek to extend and fund the program in its current form.

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