August 21, 2007
Why does the President want children to be sick?

I'm not sure else how to say it when I read stories like this.

The Bush administration, engaged in a battle with Congress over whether a popular children's health insurance program should be expanded, has announced new policies that will make it harder for states to insure all but the lowest-income children.

New administrative hurdles, which state health officials were told about late last week, are aimed at preventing parents with private insurance for their children from availing of the government-subsidized State Children's Health Insurance Program. But Democrats and children's advocates said that the announcement will jeopardize coverage for children whose parents work at jobs that do not provide employer-paid insurance.

Under the new policy, a state seeking to enroll a child whose family earns more than 250 percent of the poverty level -- or $51,625 for a family of four -- must first ensure that the child is uninsured for at least one year. The state must also demonstrate that at least 95 percent of children from families making less than 200 percent of the poverty level have been enrolled in the children's health insurance program or Medicaid -- a sign-up rate that no state has yet managed.

What possible interest could there be in making sure a kid is uninsured for a year before making this worthwhile program available to him? And why would you insist on a hurdle that's too high for anyone to clear?

Cindy Mann, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, said they "would effectively foreclose the opportunity for states to cover children in families with incomes of about $40,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the size of family."

The District and 18 states, including Maryland, either cover children in families making more than 250 percent of the poverty level or have recently passed laws to do so, Mann said.

The administrative move, announced while lawmakers are out of town during the August recess, comes after the White House has wrangled with Congress for months over the future of the $5 billion-a-year program.

The Senate and the House have passed legislation that would dramatically increase funding and make it possible to sign up millions of new children for coverage. But President Bush wants to keep the program largely unchanged and has promised to veto either bill, saying they would inappropriately increase the federal role in health care.

The "inappropriate" thing to the President is that this actually works really well, and at a lower cost than what the private insurance industry can provide. Needless to say, that just won't do.

What else is there to say? The President's actions speak for themselves. Click on for a response from State Rep. Garnet Coleman, who's been one of the biggest CHIP supporters in the Lege.

Last month both houses of Congress passed a reauthorization and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the joint state-federal program that provides health insurance for millions of children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance.

Congress comes back from its August recess September 4 to meet in a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. (For an excellent elaboration on the differences between the two bills and what makes a good SCHIP reauthorization bill, click here to read a thorough policy paper from the Center for Public Policy Priorities).

Yet Congress' progress is imperiled by a veto threat from President Bush, and today the New York Times reports that the Bush administration is implementing new rules that will stifle efforts to ensure more children in this country ( click here to read the article from the New York Times). Those rules include:

  • Imposing waiting periods for enrollment (like the 90-day waiting period the Texas Legislature eliminated this past session)

  • Requiring states to cover 95% of children at or below 200% of the poverty level before allowing them to enroll children above 250% of the poverty level

  • Charging co-payments and premiums that approximate the cost of private health insurance coverage

You can read the letter from the Center for Medicaid and State Operations outlining the new rules by clicking here.

No state has met the standard of covering 95% of children at or below 200% of the poverty level, so that rule effectively bars states (including Texas) from ever expanding their CHIP programs to cover children above 250% of the poverty level. Additionally, Texas has had such a terrible experience with its 90 day waiting period that it eliminated it in HB 109 this past session. Why would we impose on the nation something that clearly hasn't worked in Texas?

It's important to stay in touch with your member of Congress on this issue. Click here to find your member of Congress, and tell him/her that nothing should stand in the way between our children and the health coverage they deserve.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 21, 2007 to National news

I can only conclude that as one of his last bits of screwed-up advice to Bush, Karl Rove has come up with this cockamamie plan. I cannot imagine a result other than the election of an even larger Democratic majority in the Congress and a Democratic president. What in the world was Bush thinking?

Posted by: Dennis on August 21, 2007 6:09 PM

The current Dem legislation funds this proposal by making cuts in Medicare. So, while little Johnny may be getting health insurance, grandma will have to go without some of her medical care. Why do Democrats hate old people?

Posted by: G-Man on August 22, 2007 1:05 PM

The current Dem legislation funds this proposal by making cuts in Medicare. So, while little Johnny may be getting health insurance, grandma will have to go without some of her medical care. Why do Democrats hate old people?

G-Man--Why would you say something that is so easily verifiably false? Anyone who has done even the slightest bit of homework on this bill would know that the bulk of the SCHIP expansion is being paid for by tobacco taxes. Only a small piece of this bill is paid for by cuts in Medicare, and those are generally around the parts that inefficiently attempt to privatize it. In fact, here's what grandmas are saying about the bill: AARP Commends House for Passing CHAMP Act.

I really suggest that you start working in reality, because it's the absense of it that cost you the 2006 election and probably many more in the future.

Posted by: blank on August 24, 2007 1:13 AM