Children's Health Care Program Must Continue

Oct 16, 2007 Issues: Health Care

Some issues Congress considers are complicated. Others are quite simple. Consider the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In 1997, this bi-partisan program was created to provide health care coverage for children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. 

During the last 10 years, the children’s health program has proven successful — with 6 million children now enrolled. 

It costs less than $3.50 a day to cover a child through SCHIP and the program is administered by the states with children enrolled in private health plans such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Despite the success of this program, there still are 9 million American children who have no health insurance at all.
Two-thirds of these uninsured children are eligible for the SCHIP or Medicaid — but better outreach and adequate funding are needed for the states to identify and enroll them.
This year Congress needed to renew the program and we were asked this question: Should an effective program be expanded to cover more of these eligible children? 

Forty-three state governors said expand the program. The AARP, the American Medical Association, and Families USA all said expand the program.
Polls indicate that 72 percent of the American public supports expanding the program.
So, the House and Senate worked together and reached a compromise to preserve coverage for the 6 million children and extend coverage to 4 million low-income children.
In Michigan, this expansion would cover 80,900 uninsured children from families with annual incomes between $20,535 and $41,300.
Unfortunately, after children’s health care passed the Senate with 67 votes and the House with 265 votes, President Bush decided to veto (only the fourth of his entire administration) children’s health insurance.
The president says the program is too expensive, but the bi-partisan compromise is fully paid for with a 61-cent tobacco tax.
The president says the program will cover families making too much money, but the bi-partisan compromise focuses the states on low-income families and 92 percent of children covered by the bill will be in families making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($40,000 for a family of four).
This was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s reaction to the president’s veto: “For 10 years, SCHIP has worked remarkably well in helping children who otherwise would not get the medicine and doctor visits they need to grow up strong … I believe that some have given the president bad advice on this matter, because I believe that supporting this bipartisan compromise to provide health coverage to lowincome children is the morally right thing to do. I hope that we can muster enough votes to overturn this veto.”
We need just 15 Republican members of the House to change their minds and vote to make health care a reality for 10 million children.
Forrest Gump said, “simple is as simple does” and what SCHIP does is provide kids with health care. It is that simple.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 12th Congressional District. He serves on the House Ways and Means committee.