Senate Democrats

President Bush Shifts Goalposts, Shows No Intention of Signing Children’s Health Insurance Bill

As the President continues his crusade against the Children’s Health Insurance Program, one thing is for certain, he is only interested in playing politics with the wel-being of America’s children and has no intention of providing health care for the 3.9 million kids who would otherwise be uninsured if the new CHIP measure is not enacted. As White House Press Secretary said after the President’s veto, “We won this round on SCHIP.”

As detailed below, President Bush continually shifts his argument as to why he’s against it. Following are the various excuses President Bush has given for opposing the CHIP measure, and the corresponding facts:

EXCUSE #1: Today, The President Said He Would Veto Any CHIP Measure With a Tobacco Tax Increase. According to the press, President Bush told Republican lawmakers yesterday that he would not agree to legislation expanding children’s health insurance if it included a tobacco tax increase, a decision that virtually ensures a renewed veto struggle with the Democratic-controlled Congress. [AP, 10/31/07]

REALITY:      One Recent Survey Found74 Percent of Americans Would be Willing to Pay Higher Taxes to Cover the Measure. According to a poll from CBS News, 74 percent of Americans would be willing to pay more taxes to increase the number of enrolled children in the CHIP program. [CBS News, 10/17/07]

REALITY:      AJune Survey Found Americans Overwhelmingly Support Increasing Taxes on Tobacco to Fund Children’s Health Care. According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Americans support a tobacco tax increase to fund children’s health care and most want to vote for a candidate who does as well. [American Medical Association Press Release, 6/19/07]

EXCUSE #2: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino Claimed the President Wanted to See a Bill That Covered Poor Children First. Perino said, “the President would like to see SCHIP reauthorized and expanded. He has said that his priority is that poor children should be taken care of first [President Bush Press Briefing, 10/30/07]

REALITY:       Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a Key Architect of the CHIP Bill, Refuted the President’s Mischaracterization of the Measure. According to Senator Grassley, the new CHIP bill “made improvements to the previous compromise legislation by providing health coverage for an additional 4 million low-income uninsured children, accelerating the phase-out period for childless adults who were added to the program through administration-approved waivers, placing a hard cap of 300 percent of the federal poverty level for program eligibility, and providing states with bonus payments only for covering the poorest of the poor children who are eligible for Medicaid.” [Office Senator Chuck Grassley Press Release, 10/25/07]

REALITY:       The New CHIP Measure Provides Incentives to States to Enroll the Lowest Income Children. The new CHIP measure permits States to receive performance bonus payments only for finding and enrolling the lowest income uninsured children. [House Energy and Commerce Committee, Summary of Changes to Bipartisan Compromise on the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007]

REALITY:       The New CHIP Measure Explicitly Phases Out Coverage of Childless Adults After One Year. According to the bill, “No funds shall be available under this title for child health assistance or other health benefits coverage that is provided to a non-pregnant childless adult under an applicable existing waiver after December 31, 2008.” [HR 3963, 2007]

EXCUSE #3: The White House Claimed the Newly Revised CHIP Measure Would Continue to Provide Coverage for Adults. According to the White House’s Statement of Administration Policy, “Through creative use of waivers, States could keep parents on SCHIP through September 30, 2012. The priority of SCHIP must be poor, uninsured children. All adults should be moved off SCHIP when their State waivers come up for renewal or within one year, whichever comes sooner.” [Statement of Administration Policy, H.R. 3963]

REALITY:       The New CHIP Measure Explicitly Phases Out Coverage of Childless Adults After One Year. According to the bill, “No funds shall be available under this title for child health assistance or other health benefits coverage that is provided to a non-pregnant childless adult under an applicable existing waiver after December 31, 2008.” [HR 3963, 2007]

EXCUSE #4: The White House Claimed the Newly Revised CHIP Measure Would Provide Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants. According to theWhite House’s Statement of Administration Policy, claimed the measure “provides insufficient safeguards to assure that funds will not be spent on ineligible individuals.” [Statement of Administration Policy, H.R.3963]

REALITY:     Congressional Budget Office Director Says Citizenship Verification Requirements in New CHIP Measure Are Probably “As Good As You’re Going to Get.” CBO Director, Peter Orzag said, “Virtually all of the people who will be picked up are citizens. Any verification system will not be absolutely airtight perfect. … Our analysts believe there wasn’t a problem to begin with.” Orzag said the citizenship verification requirements in the most recent version of the SCHIP bill “are probably as good as you’re going to get.” [Congress Daily, 10/30/07]

EXCUSE #5: In July, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Warned the President Would Veto Any CHIP Bill above the President’s $5 Billion Proposal. Secretary Leavitt said President Bush supports the CHIP program and wants it reauthorized to ensure all those now receiving care will still be covered. However, he warned Congress that stating the President would veto the legislation if Congress goes above his recommended $5 billion increase. “What we do not support is a huge expansion of the program,” said Leavitt. [Salt Lake Tribune, 7/26/07]

REALITY:     Were the President’s Proposal to Become Law, Over One Million Children Could Lose Coverage. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, under the Administration’s proposal, the number of children and pregnant women covered through CHIP at some point during the year would decline from 7.6 million in 2007 to 6.2 million by 2012, a reduction of 1.4 million. Total enrollment would decline by 1.6 million under the President’s proposal. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/13/07]

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