After months of battle, from DC today is word that one of the most popular programs for children – the state children’s health insurance program – will not be expanded next year to reach tens of thousands of younger North Carolinians who currently lack health coverage. Instead, a temporary funding extension will allow the program to remain open until after the next President is in office in March 2009. (This will include enough money so NC will be able to cover projected increases in costs in the current program.) The reason? President Bush and his allies in Congress, including every single one of NC’s Republican Congressional delegation, blocked repeated efforts to expand this popular program for kids over the last few months.
This won’t last, and here’s why:
1. Support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program has been sustained and widespread – much more so than almost any other issue. Bipartisan work meant Republicans and Democrats in the Senate secured a veto-proof margin in support of the program. In the House, the vote was not quite enough to override, but was still 2 to 1 in favor with conservatives and liberals agreeing that SCHIP is critical to ensuring we do what is morally right—cover our kids. This isn’t surprising. 72 percent of Americans support increased funding for SCHIP .
2. Together, the President and his allies killed legislation that NC Governor Easley, NC Democratic leaders, and many others worked with on with Republicans in Congress that targeted the lowest income kids in the nation and helped millions of families.
3. An isolated President Bush will not keep us from doing what needs to be done in North Carolina. In NC our SCHIP program, Health Choice, does exactly what we created it to do – cover kids from low-income families with high quality care at the lowest possible cost. Our North Carolina values mean children and their health come first in our state and North Carolinians, regardless of party, are committed to making that true for every child.
4. When you add up the moral urgency, the popular support, and the hard work of our Governor and other leaders, it’s clear SCHIP expansion will get done. It’s just a question of when and who. Senators Dole and Burr, along with the rest of the Republicans in our congressional delegation have shown where they stand on kids and health with their votes against this program. They cannot continue to blindly follow President Bush’s lead forever.
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