President Bush’s threat to veto a bipartisan bill to expand the children’s health insurance program was ignored this week by Congress, which approved the measure.
The bill, drafted over the past six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee, aims to cover the millions of children who will remain uninsured unless action is taken by the end of the program on September 30. Eight million children in the United States currently do not have health insurance, including more than 1.3 million children in Texas alone, and 7.4 million children are insured under the current program. The Congressional Budget Office said that if there were no veto, the new plan would halve the number of uninsured children – 4.1 million – over the next five years.
Texas may be one of the states most affected by the CHIP changes: 25% of the entire population does not have health insurance. Between 2001 and 2003, 21 percent of Texas children had no insurance, double the national average (11%).
The bill, backed by a Democratic majority in Congress, Republican lawmakers and many governors from both parties, passed despite presidential protests. “There is no doubt that the president will veto it,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said earlier this month.
This bilateral plan will be financed by increasing federal excise taxes on tobacco products, which will give the program $35 billion over the next five years in excess of the $25 billion already allocated. Initially, Democrats asked for even more: $50 billion over the next five years.
On the contrary, the President’s proposal will add only $5 billion to the CHIP budget at the same time. White House officials said the plan would provide insurance for non-poor children, encourage parents to cut private insurance and rely on government subsidies. In addition, the bill does not include Bush’s proposals to change the health insurance tax regime, making it available to millions of people.
Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley (IA) said he would like to revise the tax proposals, but “it’s unrealistic to think it can be done before the current child health program expires in September.”
But according to the Texas Hospital Association, Texas can’t afford the luxury of losing money because of CHIP, where more children are uninsured than in any other state. The uninsured rate is the lowest in the country: 86% of Texas voters in 2006 favored making health insurance more affordable and affordable for the general population. Nearly nine out of ten believe that the state should be responsible for improving access to health insurance, since some of the costs of the uninsured are borne by those who are insured with higher premiums. In fact, according to a 2005 Families USA study, annual health insurance premiums in Texas were $1,551 higher than the national average because of unrestituted costs for uninsured health care.
The uninsured seek routine care in hospitals where they cannot be denied examination. Thus, these costs are often borne by local taxpayers and health insurance. This is a particular problem in Austin, Dallas and Houston, where many travelers come for treatment from rural areas of the state. But contrary to popular belief, most of the uninsured in Texas – eight out of 10 – are workers who simply can’t afford insurance.
In addition to a chorus of organizations reporting poor health care in the state, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report saying that uninsured people “are less likely to have a permanent source of care, delay or refuse the necessary medical care, and become preventive measures. care will be lack of care due to lack of coverage.
Many – uninsured and insured – are looking forward to the final outcome of this bill, as it will affect almost everyone in one way or another. Premiums for those who already have health insurance may be reduced due to lower costs; The chip budget increase will allow millions of children to purchase insurance that families currently cannot afford. It is clear that Congress must soon respond to a health crisis that is slowly crushing the nation.
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