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New York Health Plan Scapegoated in S-CHIP Veto

October 18, 2007

New York – The U.S. House is scheduled to vote today on an override of President Bush's veto of "S-CHIP," the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But as proponents scrambled to gather override votes, Bush fired his own shot against the bipartisan package, claiming in a Wednesday news conference that it would automatically cover families making more than $80,000.

"To increase eligibility up to $83,000, in my judgment, is an attempt by some in Congress to expand the reach of the federal government in medicine; and I believe strongly in private medicine."

The income figure is based on a unique request from the state of New York to cover families of four who earn four times the federal poverty level, but still can't afford private insurance for their kids. Jennifer Rojas with the Children's Defense Fund disputes Bush's suggestion that New York's coverage level would become a national entitlement.

"That is absolutely untrue. The pending legislation would not be an automatic increase for families with incomes up to $82,000. Any state proposing to go up to 400 percent of the poverty level would need to set its own targets, and would need approval from the federal government."

The request, originally made to help working families offset New York's high cost of living, was denied by the Bush administration, which is now being sued by New York and eight other states. Rojas explains that even if a family qualified for New York's "Child's Health Plus" program, they would still have to foot their kids' insurance bills.

"Those families would have been required to pay a premium based on a sliding scale fee. This would not be completely free, and the majority of families are far below that income level. This was really just to make sure that every child who was uninsured had access if they needed it."

The S-CHIP plan has a $35 billion price tag, and would expand a recently expired program to cover ten million kids. While the bill easily passed, an override of the President's veto requires a two-thirds majority and is expected to fail.

Robert Knight/John Robinson, Public News Service - NY