Kids’ health insurance makes poor weapon in ideological battle
President Bush has vowed to veto legislation to provide health insurance for children.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's prayer that President Bush won't veto legislation that would allow 4 million more children to get health insurance and adequate medical care isn't likely to be answered.
The unyielding president has offered little to the discussion on the measure, except to repeat his veto threat and demand that Congress provide no more than $5 billion -- not even enough to keep up with inflation and increasing health care costs -- for the program that has substantially reduced the number of uninsured children.
Failing a change of heart, Bush should stay true to his word to work on a compromise. Otherwise, he adds to his thin legacy a denial of health care to the estimated 9 million American children without insurance.
Since 1997, the State Children's Health Insurance Program has covered 6.6 million children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford insurance on their own. The bill gives states the flexibility to raise qualifying income levels, with the approval of the administration, an adjustment critically important in Hawaii where a higher cost of living slices deeper into paychecks.
Moreover, Bush's veto would withhold $10 million a year to help Hawaii hospitals, which provide care to a disproportionate number of Medicaid and uninsured residents compared to other states. The bill also could assist the state in implementing a new public-private health care plan to fulfill the medical needs of every child in Hawaii.
The president claims the legislation moves toward "government-run health care for every American," an ideological bogeyman that would be more frightening if he, members of Congress and the military, and veterans were not already beneficiaries of such programs. And if the ideological battle is what holds Bush's concern, he is ill-advised to put children's health on the front.
Eighteen Republicans in the Senate and 45 in the House voted to expand the program, which has bipartisan roots, first approved when Washington wasn't paralyzed by discord. The House numbers aren't enough for an override, but the news-bite image of Bush's allies, many of whom are up for re-election, saying no to children's health care might motivate changes of minds, if not hearts.
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