Should Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) win the election, most health care analysts predict that SCHIP expansion will kick-off a larger effort of health care reform. In 2007, despite broad bipartisan support and the urging of governors, President Bush vetoed two separate bills (HR 976 and HR 3963) that would have extended health care coverage to some 10 million children.
In preparation for the next SCHIP battle, the Wonk Room has compiled the voting records of politicians up for re-election who opposed SCHIP expansion:
Name HR 976 HR 3963 Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) No No Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) No No Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) No No Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) – No Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) No No Rep. Bill Sali (R-ID) No No
Along with the president, the above complained that the bipartisan compromise would “raise taxes on working Americans,” add “nonpoor children to the program” and encourage “many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”
Despite their claims, however, “the overwhelming majority of children who would gain health coverage under the emerging agreement are precisely the low-income children the President says he wants to focus on.” A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the SCHIP the first bill found that the overwhelming majority of those who would gain coverage under the bill have incomes below states’ current SCHIP eligibility limits. Two-thirds of “those who gain SCHIP coverage…would otherwise be uninsured.”
The importance of covering children cannot be overstated. Publicly insured children are “more likely to have asthma, learning disabilities, and/or health conditions that require regular treatment with prescription medications.” Medicaid and SCHIP, in turn, “provide access to the medical care that can treat these problems and help children grow, function, and learn more effectively.”
Ninety-one percent of Americans want “Congress to help states cover more uninsured children.” The next President and Congress will have a unique opportunity to channel this consensus towards concrete health care reform, of which SCHIP will only be the beginning.