House Passes Child Health Bill Despite Bush Veto Threat
The move, which was mostly a Democrat-Republican split in the voting, renews and expands the State Children's Health Insurance Program, SCHIP. The scheme grants federal money to help states cover the health insurance costs of families who are just above the earning limit for the state sponsored Medicaid but don't earn enough to pay for private insurance. It is estimated this will continue coverage for 6 million children and extend it to another 5 million or so ininsured children.
The bill also includes an increase of 19.3 billion dollars spending on Medicare payments to doctors, more support for mental health and other benefits under the state sponsored Medicare insurance scheme for people aged 65 and over.
The increased funding would be paid for by a considerable increase in tobacco taxes (raising tax on cigarettes by 45 cents per pack for example) and cutting back Medicare payments to private insurers.
President Bush said is against the bill because it expands the government's control of healthcare and is financed by a large tax increase. He favours a system of tax breaks that encourage uninsured people to take out private insurance.
The President is proposing a scheme that extends the current SCHIP spend from 25 to 30 million dollars over five years. According to congressional budget analysts that proposal would be 14 billion dollars short of what is needed to maintain the current coverage over that period of time.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told Reuters news agency:
"Contrary to the claims of the president and other opponents of this bill, it does not constitute a 'government takeover of health care'."
"In fact, three-fourths of the children in the SCHIP program receive care today through private insurance plans that contract with the states," added Hoyer.
Republican Representative Jim McCrery of Louisiana agreed with the President that the Democrat led bill was "a massive expansion of government-controlled health care". He said it was a ploy to "lure" middle class families out of private health insurance.
In the meantime the Senate has also been working on a similar bill that would expand SCHIP by 35 billion dollars, with no changes to Medicare, but the tax on tobacco would be higher (61 cents more than the current 39 cents per pack of cigarettes, and even higher increases for cigars). Bush has threatened to veto this bill as well. The two bills will have to be made into one before being sent to the President.
Click here for article from Families USA on SCHIP and how it works (PDF reader required).
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