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SCHIP: Veto, Protests, Lawsuit

At rallies October 4 in Chicago, the suburbs and downstate, Republicans in the Illinois congressional delegation are being asked to vote to override President Bush’s veto yesterday of legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Rallies organized by and Citizen Action Illinois are listed at the Newstips blog.

“This is a defining moment for the health care movement and for the direction of our country, said Lynda DeLaforgue of Citizen Action. “Clearly the President has a different set of priorities than most of the American people.”

President Bush’s stated reasons for vetoing the SCHIP expansion yesterday closely follow policy arguments for new restrictions on SCHIP eligibility announced by the administration in August — restrictions that Illinois is joining seven other states to challenge in court.

The arguments are “simply false” and “nothing but naked ideology,” said John Bouman of the Sargent Shriver National Center for Poverty Law.

Bush argued that expanding the program would attract families who have employer-sponsored health coverage to the public program. Bouman points out that two-thirds of the children who would be covered in the expansion have no health insurance, and coverage for many of the rest is often inadequate and threatened by rising costs to employers. Rather than being a government invasion of the private market, the SCHIP expansion is “a government rescue for the failures of the private sector, which isn’t getting the job done,” he said.

The president argued that the expansion would extend the program to the middle class. According to Bouman, almost all of the newly-covered children would be in families earning two to three times the federal poverty level, which experts universally consider an inadequate measure of real poverty — “twice the official level is more realistic” — and that those just above that level are extremely vulnerable to economic instability due to health costs.

The eligibility restrictions announced in August would limit states to covering children from families up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. “It’s an ingenious argument” because it allows the administration to “look like they’re concerned about the poorest kids and want to target resources,” Bouman said. But it’s an “undeniable fact that the millions of kids in the expansion group need the coverage,” he said.

Governor Blagojevich announced October 2 that Illinois will join New York, Arizona, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Washington in the lawsuit.

The states have argued that the eligibility restrictions were applied arbitrarily and without an opportunity for public comment required by law.

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Category: children, health

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