WORLD / America
Bush vetoes kids health insurance bill
Updated: 2007-12-13 15:01
The bill Bush vetoed would have increased federal funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, to add an estimated 4 million people to the program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children.
A major point of contention with the White House was Bush's demand that nearly all poor children eligible for the program be found and enrolled before any in slightly higher-income families could be covered. He originally proposed adding $5 billion to the program over five years but later said he was willing to go higher as long as his conditions were met.
The president also has opposed using an increased tobacco tax to fund the program expansion. The bill includes a 61-cent rise on a package of cigarettes.
Bush's veto in early October of a similar bill was narrowly upheld by the House.
But such votes are uncomfortable for GOP lawmakers. It is a popular program with the public, making some Republicans wary of sticking with Bush on such an issue with the 2008 elections looming. Of the 43 million people nationwide who lack health insurance, more than 6 million are under 18 years old. That's more than 9 percent of all children.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will take up the extension question Thursday in a bill that also will make adjustments to Medicare.
"We'll obviously need to put additional money" into the children's health insurance program, Hoyer said, because several states say they will have to remove recipients from their rolls if the current funding level continues into next year.
Hoyer declined to say how much new money would go into the program or how long it might be extended. In the past, top Democrats have suggested they might extend the program until September or October, allowing them to reconsider it shortly before the 2008 elections.