Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are among a group of Republicans in Congress speaking out against plans to increase federal funding for State Childrens’ Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP). Pres. George W. Bush has asked Congress for an additional $5 billion over five years in his budget; however, a bill before the House will allocate up to 10 times that amount. The AP is reporting that without large increases in SCHIP funding, most of Texas’ 1.4 million uninsured children will remain uncovered.
Rep. Carter disparaged a House bill proposing an increase large enough to cover all uninsured children as “a slow stroll down the road to socialism.” The AP reports that Sen. Cornyn “is concerned about the program’s ‘dramatic expansion,’ warning it could set the stage for a government-run, national health care system.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) thinks the President’s plan goes too far. He “wrote an alternative bill that would spend $500 million to $1.5 billion over the same timeline.” That is as little as one-tenth as much as the President is requesting.
The Texas Republicans’ criticisms run in stark contrast to public opinion, which is firmly behind the expansion of SCHIP. Recent polling shows that Americans favor [pdf] “offering a government-subsidized health insurance plan to individuals who do not have access to employer-paid health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid” by a three-to-one margin (WSJ/Harris May 8).
State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) broke down in tears on the floor of the Texas House in the waning hours of the 80th regular session to convey the lengths he was willing to go to restore SCHIP coverage to 127,000 uninsured Texas children. He allied with Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) and wielded the gavel for hours at a time, refusing to recognize members of both parties who sought to be recognized to make a motion to vacate the chair. Turner made it clear that he would bargain with the devil to restore coverage for those 127,000 children. Yet, if Congress does not pass and Pres. Bush does not sign a bill to increase SCHIP funding by an amount significantly higher than what the President is requesting, many of those 127,000 children will remain uncovered.
Texas Republicans are leading the charge to stab Turner in the back and render worthless the bargain he made.
The intense emotions and passionate debate over a matter, literally, of life or death for our nation’s 11.6 million uninsured children [pdf] will reach a fever pitch as Congress takes up this issue, with votes coming perhaps this week. The National Academy for State Health Policy’s Chip Central web site provides a great deal of material on this issue, including a side-by-side comparison [pdf] of three SCHIP reauthorization proposals under consideration.