Suffer the Little Children

Why is it that no good policy goes unpunished in the Bush administration? Since its inception in 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-Chip) has provided health insurance to millions of kids whose families couldn’t afford private coverage but earned too much to qualify for Medicaid. After the U.S. House and Senate in August passed a reauthorization and expansion of S-Chip, the Bush administration issued a directive to state health officials with newly stringent hurdles that make it virtually impossible to extend the coverage to middle-class families: States must first find and enroll 95 percent of poor children in S-Chip.

This stealth attack on S-Chip echoes President Bush’s threat to veto the congressional proposals to expand eligibility to families at 300 percent (the Senate bill) or 400 percent (the House bill) of the poverty level.

“The program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children,” Bush said recently in Cleveland. “It’s now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care.”

But polling data from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey conducted after the congressional votes show “overwhelming” public support for S-Chip. And the view that it’s a good thing for American society to take care of its kids cuts across political lines: Seventy-seven percent of Republicans, 86 percent of independents, and 93 percent of Democrats give the Decider a thumbs-down on his view that the emergency room is all the health insurance any kid needs.

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


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