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Friday, October 19th 2007

SCHIP Fails

The failure of the House to override the S-CHIP veto is disappointing. Now even the program itself is at risk, not just its expansion.

The 273-156 House vote was 13 short of the two-thirds majority needed. Despite a two-week campaign by proponents, only 44 Republicans voted to override, one fewer than had originally supported the bill.

The White House and some leading backers of the legislation immediately urged negotiations on a compromise to extend the children’s program, which serves about 6 million youths. But, after a House debate that turned acrimonious, it remained unclear whether they would find common ground.

Bush has designated Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, White House Budget Director Jim Nussle and economic advisor Allan B. Hubbard to negotiate with Congress.

Leavitt said the president wants to prevent any disruptions in coverage. But the two sides seem far apart.

Okay, all of that is hyperbole. We all know that S-CHIP has essentially become an entitlement and that the emergency funding heads through November. S-CHIP will get reauth’d before this session is done.

All of that said, no one who found the gall to be on the nay side of this list will ever get a vote from me; and they shouldn’t from you either.

It isn’t the outright objection to the program that upsets me. I can understand that. Instead, it’s the way this bill went down. Wide support for the program but not for this expansion?

Since I first wrote this post I had an opportunity to speak with a member of congress who voted against both the bill and the veto override attempt but who obviously, as the vast majority, supports the program itself. It was the typical arguments against the bill. He cited that 1.8 million of those newly eligible would come off private insurance. That doesn’t come anywhere near jiving with the CBO numbers.

He made the following point against the lower estimates of cost shifting, which is reasonable but doesn’t change my opinion.

He pointed out that efforts to find and enroll many children to date have proven difficult. Certainly true when you look at how many currently eligible but unenrolled children a state like Texas has (something like 500,000). Such is evidence that a much larger percentage of families on the higher side of the new eligibility would’ve joined than program than those on the lower end. Largely because those families are more up to date on current events, have a higher political and health literacy and are “on the map” so to say.

Obviously these children would be more likely to have private insurance at present.

He contended that the CBO and lower estimates of cost shifting, miscalculated the distribution of incomes which would’ve taken advantage of the new plan. I don’t know how the CBO figured their numbers or if they considred the relative enrollment of children based on income.

That said, a figure like 1.8 million still smeels highly partisan. No matter disagreements on the numbers, the bill was still worthy of support. The truth on cost shifting probably lies somewhere between the high and the low. Such as most things in life.

That being the case, I still support the vetoed bill because it errs to overshoot rather than to leave some children high and dry. I know I rage against ‘heart string’ arguments, but I’ll make my own such argument in this care. If the reality lies somewhere in between the two sides. If the Democrats are overestimating who should be enrolled; shouldn’t we err in that direction rather than leaving some children out to dry? Even the representative I talked to contended the new bill would cover approximately a million new children who needed and deserved it. And, as above, that’s probably an underestimation. Does he truly believe that whatever reauthorization comes out now will reach all of those children?

You will never get a perfect bill. Such is a reality. In situations like this, don’t you need ot make your mistakes overshoots? I mean, we can fund the war in Iraq but can’t seem to find a consensus to keep funding for children our priority?

Seriously, you may think that society doesn’t owe any social responsibilities to children (hell, I say that about adults everyday) but there is no moral victory to be had here for the Republicans touting the line. There is no way for the Republicans to “spin” this as a Reagan-esque victory. Contentions to that are…misguided (although I could use a stronger word here).

You locate one or two representative working class families with children and parents who provide for them, including their health care, through consistent employment and smart choices. You simply have the child make the case that the family doesn’t begrudge helping genuinely disadvantaged families, but little Timmy, or Sally, or whatever, can’t understand why their Mommy and Daddy has to give up some of their hard-earned money to subsidize health care for families that, in some cases, make even more money than they do. You fight fire with fire.

At least that’s what you would do if you had any fire in you.

The program already exists, it fails to provide insurance for all children who can’t afford it. Even if that isn’t the stated goal of the program, I assure you it is how the unwary public views it.

Please, let the popular conservative blogger above grab reigns of the NRCC or some congressional campaign. I’d love to see the results of that.

I’m not implying that outrage across the land will be had at the S-CHIP vote. Just like I’m not shouting the doom and gloom of the Democrats in trying to stir up the belief that S-CHIP as a whole is doomed.

This vote won’t be a deciding piece come election time for the Republicans. The public doesn’t care that much, but there should be no pretending that Republicans have not done some harm to their public image with this debacle (an image that can’t really take much more of a beating). And there should be no pretending they have an argument the public will listen to in terms of “small government.”

Plans like that above from Riehl World will simply come across as drivel.

Oh well, hopefully S-CHIP gets reauthorized sooner rather than later.

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