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SCHIP Debate Focuses On Eligibility Limits

Armen Hareyan's picture

State Children's Health Insurance Program

Republicans opposed to an expansion of SCHIP "quickly accused"Democrats of "exploiting" 12-year-old SCHIP beneficiary Graeme Frost --who responded for Democrats to President Bush's weekly radio address onSept. 29 -- "to score political points" and then "wasted little time ingoing after [Frost] to score their own," the New York Times reports (Herszenhorn, New York Times,10/10). Frost and his younger sister, Gemma, relied on SCHIP after aserious car accident in 2004. Republican bloggers have discussed theFrosts' income and assets and questioned whether the family couldafford private coverage. The Frosts have refuted all the claims, notingthat they have an annual income between $45,000 and $50,000 (Hay Brown,Baltimore Sun, 10/10).

TheFrosts also said that they recently have been denied private insurancecoverage three times because of pre-existing medical conditions.According to the Times, "what on the surface appears tobe yet another partisan feud ... actually cuts to the most substantivedebate around SCHIP" -- that of eligibility levels. Democrats arguethat the program "is crucially needed to help the working poor" whilemany Republicans say SCHIP "now helps too many people with the means tohelp themselves," the Times reports (New York Times, 10/10).

Bloggerson Tuesday who had criticized the Frosts "backed off a bit" afterlearning more about the financial situation of the family, according toUSA Today (Wolf, USA Today, 10/10).

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Political Strategy

Democrats this week plan to boost their strategy of emphasizing thecost of the Iraq War in contrast to the cost of the vetoed SCHIP bill, Roll Call reports. House Democratic CaucusChair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said, "Our view is the president, he askedfor $200 billion for the war in Iraq, and then referred to children'shealth care as excessive spending" (Yachnin, Roll Call, 10/10).

Compromiselegislation vetoed by Bush last week would have provided an additional$35 billion in funding over the next five years and increased totalspending on the program to $60 billion. The additional funding wouldhave been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax.An override vote in the House is scheduled for Oct. 18 (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/9).

Emanuelsaid that Democrats would highlight the contrast in a Tuesday nightvote on legislation that would target war profiteering, in addition toexpected reports from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on waste, fraud and abuse of spending related to the war and a House Budget Committee hearing in late October on the long-term outlook of total spending on the war (Roll Call, 10/10).

HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the SCHIP bill would"effectively doubl[e] the number of children that the president isproposing to cover," adding, "When you think of it, for one year we cancover 10 million children at the cost of 40 days in Iraq" (Coile, San Francisco Chronicle,10/10). Pelosi noted that "the cost of the war in terms of dollars is avery important issue for the American people" (Soraghan, The Hill, 10/10).

Inrelated news, progressive groups have launched a phone campaign againstRep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) for voting against the SCHIP bill,"potentially causing problems for Marshall, one of the most vulnerablecongressional incumbents in the country in the 2008 elections," the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreports. However, Marshall spokesperson Doug Moore said that he isunlikely to change his position on SCHIP and doubted that the votewould affect Marshall's chances of re-election (Kemper/Shepard, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.