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Not all favor SCHIP expansion

John Dimsdale Sep 17, 2007

Not all favor SCHIP expansion

John Dimsdale Sep 17, 2007


John Dimsdale: Congress has two weeks to reauthorize the state children’s health insurance program. It’s known as SCHIP. And when it was created 10 years ago, SCHIP provided coverage to 16 million children in working poor families.

Today, lawmakers want to expand it to cover more middle-class kids and even some adults. That plan has the White House threatening veto. But as John Dimsdale reports, some businesses are not on the president’s side when it comes to this.

John Dimsdale: You would expect union leaders like AFL-CIO president John Sweeney to bash the president for opposing SCHIP’s expansion.

John Sweeney: He would rather keep the money flowing into the pockets of millionaire insurance CEOs than help hardworking families and their children.

But the CEOs that make up the Business Roundtable have picked SCHIP reauthorization as their number one health-care priority for the year.

Maria Ghazal is the Roundtable’s director of public policy:

Maria Ghazal: If these children can’t get health insurance in other ways, their parents don’t have jobs that come with insurance or they’re unable to purchase it on their own, this is a great way to cover that part of the population.

Supporters of private health insurance warn the availability of government insurance lets companies off the hook for covering the kids of their lower-earning workers.

And as businesses pay less for health insurance, taxpayers will have to foot an even bigger part of the bill, says Janet Trautwein of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

Janet Trautwein: People rarely talk about this employer funding that goes away when people go to public programs. It just seems a shame that we leave millions of dollars of employer money on the table and the government picks up all of that.

SCHIP is aimed at insuring children in families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty line — currently about $41,000 for a family of four. Bills in Congress would allow families who make as much as 80,000 a year to take advantage of SCHIP.

That’s too big a step in the direction of government-run health care for the director of Medicare and Medicaid, Dennis Smith.

Dennis Smith: The government programs are now starting to compete with the private programs. The way insurance pools work best is having as many lives as possible in that insurance pool where you are spreading the risk. You get caught in a spiraling effect when you start taking people out of the pool.

Lawmakers have yet to find a compromise between two very different versions of SCHIP renewal. And with the additional hurdle of a presidential veto threat, Congress will probably have to approve a temporary extension to keep the program running after October 1st.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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