Last week Congress sent a bill to President Bush that would have provided an opportunity to secure comprehensive health insurance coverage for an additional 4 million uninsured American children. Currently in the United States, 9 million of our children have no health coverage. This legislation would have cut that number almost in half.
The President's plan for funding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) calls for an increase in funding of $5 billion over the next five years, an amount that will not cover the costs for those currently enrolled in the program. The administration's plan is a step backwards.
Congress envisioned an increase of $35 billion that would have been funded by a 61 cent increase in tobacco taxes. Sort of a "Win-Win" for those concerned for real gains and long term savings in public health costs and outcomes.
On the Senate side enough votes are in place to override the Presidential veto, but such is not true in the House of Representatives.
I'll leave others to debate the details relative to cost, those who would be eligible for coverage, speculation about intentions and competing philosophies.
But this I know. Every child in America needs health care that is high-quality, accessible and affordable to their families. Further, if improved public health is our real goal, health care should not be bought and sold like a market commodity.
The way we've been delivering health care options to low-income and middle-income families just doesn't work. The time has come for bold change. In the long run reform that leads to universal coverage will be the very best investment for the nation. Every cost benefit analysis I've seen makes this case very clear.
Here in Texas for every $1 the state invests in CHIP, we receive $2.64 in matching funds from the federal government. Bringing tax dollars back home helps everyone in Texas.
No doubt, the legislation will return to Congress for a vote to override the President's veto. One of our Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for the bill. Unfortunately, Senator John Cornyn voted against the legislation. I hope everyone reading here will contact their Representatives in the House and urge a vote for SCHIP.
I pray the President will reconsider his veto for the sake of our children and for all of our communities.
Everyone needs health care, and emergency rooms don't count.
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