Area reacts to Bush’s SCHIP veto


Local legislators and Jewish community organizations have roundly criticized President George Bush’s veto of a bill to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which proponents say would provide health insurance for up to 10 million children.

On Oct. 3, President Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill, which would continue the current SCHIP program, which covers 6.6 million children at a price of $5 billion a year. The bill would have provided an additional $7 billion each year for the next five years, funded by an increase in federal cigarette taxes.

The SCHIP program provides federal funding to states to administer to families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford health insurance.

“There is a clear need for expanding coverage to include children not eligible for Medicaid, but unable to purchase private coverage,” said L. Louis Albert, executive director of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. “Whether this represents a step towards universal health care coverage or not, JF &CS sees the day to day impact on families that do not have any coverage for their children. Failing to address this need does not eliminate the issue. It shifts the costs from the government to the hospital emergency room,” Albert said.

In Missouri, Sen. Kit Bond and Sen. Claire McCaskill both voted for the SCHIP reauthorization. Reps. Russ Carnahan, William Lacy Clay, Jr., Jo Ann Emerson, Ike Skelton and Emanuel Cleaver, II voted for the reauthorization. Reps. Todd Akin, Samuel Graves, Roy Blunt and Kenny Hulshof voted against the bill. SCHIP currently provides insurance for 68,000 Missouri children. If the bill had passed, Missouri would have received $147.7 million in federal funds for the 2008 fiscal year.

“I’m very disappointed that the President vetoed the SCHIP bill. It’s a valuable safety net for needy children who don’t have the means to purchase affordable health care,” said Sen. Bond in a statement. “Millions of children receive the vital well-child and preventative care, vaccinations, and emergency care they need to grow, learn and thrive thanks to the SCHIP Program. I supported the bill in the Senate and I am committed to reauthorizing the program,” he said.

Rep. Todd Akin said he supports the President’s veto of SCHIP, because he said the bill would be too expensive to enact, and could include families who earn enough to afford private health insurance.

“Even with the best of intentions, Congress must be careful not to create more government than we can afford,” Akin said in a statement. “Although the SCHIP bill is being promoted as insurance for poor children, the bill will provide insurance for children of parents making up to 300 percent of the poverty level and would include families making up to $62,000 a year,” he said.

Akin also objected to the bill because he said it would not require proof of citizenship by potential beneficiaries. “I am very concerned that proof of citizenship is not required for eligibility. If we are going to greatly expand an entitlement paid for by U.S. taxpayers, it is only right that the recipients of that benefit be legal citizens,” Akin said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill praised the program and criticized the President’s decision to veto the legislation.

“The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a cost-effective way to provide health care to millions of kids, and it was fiscally irresponsible of the president to veto this great program,” she said in a statement. Sen. McCaskill questioned why the President vetoed the SCHIP bill, but supported the Medicare Part D legislation.

“The difference between the SCHIP program and Medicare Part D is that the insurance corporations and drug companies got a cut in Medicare Part D,” she said. “When big corporations stood to profit, the President had no problem expanding insurance coverage even for multi-millionaires with Medicare Part D. But when low- and modest-income families can’t afford health care for their kids, he’s willing to leave them out in the cold.”

Sen. McCaskill said she hopes that with Republicans like Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking Republican member on the Finance Committee, speaking against the President’s position, she is “hopeful that this is a sign that we will have enough support to override the President’s veto.”

Marlene Hammerman, State Public Affairs Chairwoman of the National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section, said the SCHIP bill has been a priority for the NCJW.

“No child should to go without health insurance and reauthorization of this highly successful program gives us a new opportunity to move toward the widely shared goal of ensuring that all children have health insurance coverage,” Hammerman said. “NCJW applauds the House and Senate for their passage of a strong, bipartisan SCHIP bill, and is extremely disappointed in the President’s veto.”

“NCJW in Missouri thanks Senators Bond and McCaskill and Representatives Carnahan, Clay, Cleaver, Emerson and Skelton for supporting SCHIP. We are committed to seeing that Congress overrides the President’s veto and ensures that no children are left uninsured,” Hammerman said.

To override the veto, both houses of Congress must have a two-thirds majority. The Senate passed the SCHIP legislation with more than the required number of votes. However, the House of Representatives originally voted 265-159, and would need about two dozen more votes to override the veto. The House has scheduled a vote on Oct. 18. .