President Bush has vetoed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation to his moral shame. History will not be kind to his compassionless presidency. The best critique I’ve read is found here:
Last week, Bush threatened to veto a bipartisan Senate plan that would add $35 billion over five years to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The decade-old program insures children in families that are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but are too poor to afford private insurance. The extra $7 billion a year offered by the Senate would cover a few million more children. New money for the purpose would come from raising the federal excise tax on cigarettes.
Several former Bush advisers have urged the White House to accept some such SCHIP plan. So have many governors in both parties and Republican leaders in the Senate. In 2003, Bush supported a Medicare bill that increased government spending on prescription drugs for elderly middle-income citizens by hundreds of billions of dollars. But he has pledged only $1 billion a year more for low-income children’s health insurance. His spokesmen say doing any more for the “government-subsidized program” would encourage families to drop private insurance.
But the health-insurance market has already priced out working-poor families by the millions. With a growing population of low-income children, $1 billion a year more would be insufficient even to maintain current per-capita child coverage levels. Some speculate that SCHIP is now hostage to negotiations over the president’s broader plan to expand health coverage via tax cuts and credits. But his plan has no chance in this Congress; besides, treating health insurance for needy children as a political bargaining chip would be wrong.
Bush should return to Indianapolis [Where he first declared he was a “compassionate conservative” in 1999]. There, SCHIP covers children in families with incomes as high as three times the federal poverty line. The Republican governor who signed that program into law is Mitch Daniels, Bush’s first budget office director. For compassion’s sake, the president should compromise on SCHIP – say, $5 billion a year more – and work to leave no child uninsured.
That he makes the straight-faced argument that he is opposed to this legislation that helps poor children on “philosophical” grounds after pushing through the massive government expansion in Medicare for prescription drugs is repugnant, shameful, and disgraceful.