Last week, President Bush vetoed an expansion of SCHIP, denying coverage to 3.2 million children who are currently uninsured. To justify his veto, Bush held up states who want to cover children above 300 percent of the poverty level as examples of the program’s misdirection. Yesterday in his weekly radio address, Bush claimed that he is “guided by a clear principle: Put poor children first.”
Today, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) appeared on ABC’s This Week and shot down Bush’s excuses. While New Jersey’s SCHIP program does cover children in families with incomes up to $72,000, “the cost of living in New Jersey is far higher than it is in other parts of the country”:
CORZINE: Now, the fact is that there’s only about 3 percent of our kids in that 300 percent of poverty to 350 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Middle class to upper middle class.
CORZINE: Upper middle class. That’s hardly upper middle class in New Jersey. Median income’s about $65,000. The reality is that the vast majority, the vast majority of the children that are in the CHIPS program — we call it Family Care in New Jersey — are under 250 percent of poverty.
Corzine also responded to Bush’s criticism that states such as New Jersey spend “more SCHIP money on adults than they do on children.” “We cover parents up to 133 percent of poverty,” he said. “That’s $27,000 for a family of four. In New Jersey, that is poverty. … Yes, the cost of insurance for adults is more than for young folks, for kids, but that is not going to middle class or even moderate income families. Very low income.”
New Jersey is one of eight states that has sued the Bush administration for making it harder for them to cover more families under SCHIP. Additionally, the bill Bush vetoed actually put the poorest children “first in line” for benefits. It seems that in order to fund the Iraq war, poor and middle-income children come last for this administration.
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