Child Health Care Prompts New Bush-Senate Fight
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Sometimes, in Washington, it pays to look where the cameras aren't.
Here is senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
DANIEL SCHORR: Not half as exciting as an all-night session on Iraq, but the Democratic-controlled Senate faces another standoff with President Bush. He has promised to veto a bill from the Finance Committee that would raise cigarette excise taxes by 61 cents - itself a health measure - in order to provide an additional $35 billion over five years for the children's health program, now budgeted at $25 billion.
SCHIP, it's called, State Children's Health Insurance Program. And it has been one of the more successful programs for children in its decade of existence. It has provided insurance coverage for millions of children and pregnant mothers in families earning less than a certain level.
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, says it is a moral scandal that children are struggling, even dying, for lack of health care. Since the current Congress convened, 280,000 children had been born without health insurance. Full disclosure - Marian Edelman is a dear friend of mine. Further disclosure - President Bush isn't. But that is not why I write this critique. It is because he bases his objections almost entirely on ideological grounds.
The issue for him is largely the government's place in providing health care. Whether concerned for the profitry of tobacco companies plays any part, I do not know. There is another difference between the White House and the Senate Finance Committee. The administration would kept eligibility for SCHIP at $34,000 a year for a family of three. That's only two times the poverty level. Traditionally, this benefit is given to families making three times the poverty level.
By 2012, with adequate funding, SCHIP would provide coverage for 4.1 million additional children. And then, maybe, that this might make a contribution to the next generation of military recruiting.
This is Daniel Schorr.
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