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Kerry to Bush: Stop Stonewalling Children’s Health Care

by Pamela Leavey

On Thursday, Senator John Kerry responded to President George Bush’s comments on the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (S-CHIP) and the Administration’s health tax proposals. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, Kerry is joining with bipartisan colleagues to renew and strengthen the S-CHIP program. Today, nine million kids are uninsured in America, with two-thirds of them fully eligible for S-CHIP or Medicaid, but not yet enrolled.

“The White House doesn’t want Americans to know that Washington has failed to enroll nine million children for health insurance they desperately need and deserve,” said Kerry. “The Democratic Congress intends to pass bipartisan legislation this year that brings quality coverage to as many eligible children as possible, and the White House seems willing to say just about anything to block progress.”

“While the President pretends there’s a risk of too many kids getting health insurance, we know from nonpartisan reports that Bush’s plan to cut S-CHIP would actually result in millions of low-income kids losing coverage. Americans could care less about petty debating points or partisanship when it comes to making sure Americas’ kids can go see a doctor and receive medical care. The President needs to stop being a master of misdirection, and start working with Congress to complete the business of protecting our kids.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Bush Administration’s S-CHIP proposal would dramatically decrease the amount of low-income children with health insurance. The S-CHIP program is a solid bipartisan issue. It was passed by a Republican Congress, has been implemented and expanded at the state level by more Republican Governors than Democrats, and is championed by many Republicans in Congress today.

The text of Kerry’s letter is below:

June 28, 2007

President Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I was deeply concerned to hear your remarks yesterday at the White House regarding health care reform. While I appreciate your attention to one of our nation’s most urgent domestic priorities, I fear that your proposed solutions stand in the way of much-needed progress for our nation’s low-income, uninsured children.

Particularly troubling to me were your comments on the successful, bipartisan State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). As you know, S-CHIP is a federal-state partnership that was created by the Republican Congress in 1997. It has been implemented at the state level by more Republican Governors than Democratic Governors and continues to enjoy support from both political parties at all levels of government. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said it best when he stated: “It’s [increased funding for S-CHIP] a matter of doing the right thing. It’s nonpartisan. It’s bipartisan.” For these reasons, I was surprised to hear you speak of S-CHIP in the context of a so-called “larger strategy” by the Democrats to “put more power in the hands of government.” In fact, most states administer their S-CHIP programs using private health plans. Regardless, S-CHIP should not be viewed as a “divide” when, in fact, leaders from both sides of the aisle in Congress are working together to craft legislation that would sensibly strengthen S-CHIP and bring new coverage to millions of our most vulnerable children.

You also argued that bipartisan efforts to reauthorize S-CHIP represent a “massive expansion of government health care.” Many of us in Congress would like to see action to ensure quality, affordable health coverage for every one of the 9 million uninsured children in America today – not through “government health care” but through proven, successful federal-state partnerships like S-CHIP and Medicaid. While it is clear that we are limited by our nation’s constrained fiscal situation, my colleagues and I are focused on reinvesting in these partnerships to reach as many of the 6 million children who are currently eligible for S-CHIP or Medicaid but remain uninsured. I am sure you would agree that we have a moral obligation to see that all of our nation’s children – especially the most vulnerable at the bottom of the income scale – have access to quality, affordable health coverage.

We certainly agree with you that “it makes sense to have a program to help poor children get the health insurance they need.” We have such a program, it is working, and it deserves to be reauthorized and strengthened further. This should be the focus of Congress and your administration. I hope that your efforts to pursue controversial tax proposals do not signal a retreat from your commitment to see that states provide more coverage for our uninsured citizens. S-CHIP must not become a “political football” – it is far too important to our states and to our low-income children and families across the country.

Sincerely,

John F. Kerry

Art Levine is asking on the HuffPo that “if you want to make a difference on SCHIP and expand coverage to kids who qualify for it, you can reach your Congressman or Senator through an email alert provided by Families USA.” “Families USA” has endorsed John Kerry’s “Kid’s First” Act.

The Progressive Policy Institute has more on the issue: President Bush Takes a Wrong Turn in Debate over Children’s Health Care.

3 Responses to “Kerry to Bush: Stop Stonewalling Children’s Health Care”

  1. When I was a kid in the fifties we had health insurance from my fathers job. That consisted of going to the doctor as needed, and never giving anything a second thought.

    Health insurance in the United States now is a combination of deductibles and co-pays, on top of premiums for a family that really cut into take home pay. Because we have never yet used health care in a year that would have cost as much as we paid for premiums, etc., I spent some time trying to figure out what this whole mess really means for our family.

    If we tried to go naked, it’s clear that we would save money for as long as our present health continues. If we had a mild illness or an accident that was not very serious, we would go in the hole in short order. And if something serious did happen, we would lose everything, take out bankruptcy, and become Medicaid eligible. At that point we would be poverty stricken but would receive decent medical care until recovery or death.

    Interestingly, though, the picture doesn’t look that much different if we remain insured. Now we would lose money by staying healthy, and come out a little ahead with run of the mill medical problems. If the really bad stuff hit we might exhaust benefits before being restored to health, or we might be covered until the end, but the final outcome would be the same. “Our share” would exhaust all of our resources, we would be bankrupt, and we might well be impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid going forward.

    The medical providers probably come out a little better off if we have insurance coverage, but the end results for ourselves are far less clear. Maybe I’m wrong but I’m just sitting here with my fingers crossed hoping that we never have to find out.

  2. Darrell,

    Praying for your (and your family’s)health. I can’t believe any of our party’s “candidates” couldn’t take time out to attack what President Bush is trying to do to SCHIP.

  3. Sure states can sometimes be strpped for cash, but it’s still hard to imagine that SCHIP “has been implemented at the state level by more Republican Governors than Democratic Governors.” Come on Dem governors, act like Dems for God’s sake.