Childrens' Health Insurance Bill Vetoed By President Bush
Childrens' Health insurance bill vetoed by President Bush: What’s next?
It was a showdown that Democrats and their many Republican allies just couldn’t win: After President Bush vetoed the $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that would have provided health coverage for an estimated four million more of America’s uninsured children; Democratic leaders vowed they would do whatever it took to override the veto.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program went into effect under President Clinton in 1997. The bill was designed to ensure that children – whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford health insurance – would receive the health insurance coverage they need. The bill was also extended to include some 670,000 adults.
Individual states mandate who qualifies for the program. Families in most states must make no more than twice the federal poverty level, or $41,228 for those families of four in 2006. Some states have higher income eligibility. For example, residents of New Jersey can make up to three-and-a-half times the government’s poverty level and still be eligible for the program while New York is proposing changes to allow residents that make four times the poverty level to be eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The health insurance bill would have expanded upon the current State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which currently insures 6.6 million children. The bill would have been implemented over five years at a cost of $35 billion. The funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program would have been raised by hiking the cigarette tax from its current 61 cents to one dollar per pack.
President Bush, however, is in favor of an increase of $5 billion for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which would be funded from general revenue. Under Bush’s plan, opponents say, 800,000 of those children currently enrolled in the program would lose their coverage.
One of the reasons President Bush vetoed the bill was the fact that, according to him, high income children would be covered under the proposal, a point Democrats vehemently deny.
Those Democrats and Republicans in favor of the $35 billion dollar bill are hesitant to negotiate at a lower amount. In fact, since the proposal has been introduced, compromises have been made: Originally, the bill came with a price tag of $100 billion which was eventually negotiated down by the House and the Senate to $50 billion. The latest drop took the cost to $35 billion.
Chances looked good with only 10 Republicans needed to override the veto, yet the effort ultimately failed, leaving many to wonder what’s next. Unfortunately, time is quickly running out for the federal program that currently provides health coverage for approximately 6.6 million children enrolled in the program. The current funding, which expired but was eventually extended for a brief period, will remain intact until November 15. But even if there is an agreement to keep the funding at the current level, there will still not be enough money to cover all 6.6 million children currently enrolled in the program.