President Bush has promised to veto an extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This program afforded some medical coverage to 6.9 million children in 2006. Its purpose is to cover children from families making more than the cutoff for Medicaid eligibility but not enough to afford private insurance. The proposal which has provoked the veto threat would increase the limit from 200% to 300% of the Medicaid cutoff and cover an additional 3.3 million children. It would be paid for by increasing the cigarette tax to $1 per pack. Over 5 years, program costs would increase from $35 billion to $60 billion (in other words ~$12 billion/year or about what is being spent for a single month of the Iraq war in 2007). Bush contends that this would cause the poor to shift from (expensive) private plans to the more affordable SCHIP program, showing that Bush is more interested in the health of insurance companies than in that of the nation’s children.
On October 3, 2007, Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill. On October 18, 2007, the House failed to override Bush’s veto (2/3 needed). The vote was 273-156 with 154 Republicans siding with the President.
On October 25, 2007, an SCHIP modified to remove some adults from its coverage passed the House 265-142 and the Senate 64-30 on November 11. 2007. Bush vetoed this bill (his 7th) as well on December 12, 2007. On January 23, 2008, the House failed to override this second veto 260-152.
On August 17, 2007, the Bush Administration quietly announced rules changes in SCHIP that would limit eligibility of children from middle class families and place punitive deductibles on them in order to force them into more expensive private plans. In a move made public on December 20, 2007, the Bush Administration extended the new restrictions on SCHIP to the Medicaid program. On April 18, 2008, attorneys from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) announced in a formal legal opinion that the Administration had in effect issued new rules and that these must by law be submitted to Congress for review, something which the Administration had not done. The changes were therefore unenforceable. This decision gives ammunition to 22 states suing the government over the changes and makes unlikely these rules coming into effect before Bush leaves office. This is important because a rule that has not gone into effect is much easier to change than one that has.
This is compassionate conservatism? To favor greedy but inefficient and uncompetitive insurance companies over a widely popular government program which covers the health needs of more children and at less cost. Good to know.