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Posted by on Oct 18, 2007 in At TMV | 11 comments

S-CHIP: Battle Lost, But On To the War

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An effort to override President Bush’s veto of a $35 billion, five-year expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program fell short today in a 273-156 vote in the House of Representatives. While that outcome was expected, it is only one lost battle in what is shaping up to be a helluva war.

The bill had passed the Democratic-controlled Senate and House with substantial Republican support, an acknowledgement that the health-care crisis in America has crossed the tracks from the poor side of town and reached into the beleaguered middle class.

The latest polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including about 70 percent of Republicans, support expanding the program to include more middle-class families, which has moved Republicans who not long ago would have opposed such a measure to sign on.

Despite seven years of runaway spending by the White House and a war in Iraq that has drained $450 billion from the national Treasury, Bush used his veto pen for only the fourth time in rejecting the bill. Thumbing his nose at the larger reality that he yet again was hurting the very people he claims to protect, the president asserted that the expansion was too expensive and an end-run toward government-subsidized national health care.

Eighteen Republicans in the Senate and 45 in the House had voted for the bill. But in the end no Republicans broke with Bush to change their nay votes and one changed his vote to nay. The override attempt fell 137 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

The S-CHIP program currently covers about 6 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private health insurance. The expanded program would have extended eligibility to about 4 million more children through a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.

The president has signaled that he might agree to a less expensive expansion and while the Democratic leadership has refused to commit on a compromise, there may be negotiations on one since the current funding extension for the program expires in mid-November.

The fact that no few Republicans changed their minds is a victory for the lame-duck president, but it is an empty one for his party because representatives like James Saxton of New Jersey who had what were considered safe seats may be fighting for their political lives next year.

Saxton offered perhaps the lamest reason for sticking with his nay vote in saying that a campaign led by a coalition of labor unions and liberal groups targeting he and other Republicans was “purely political.”

Representative Pete Stark, the California Democrat, won the prize for the most tasteless remark in claiming of Republicans: “You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement.”

Obscured by the uproar over Graeme Frost and his family was that several big health-care groups lobbied hard for the bill, including America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the American Medical Association (AMA). This put the lie to the view that the bill was a Trojan horse for government-run healthcare.

This formidable line-up not only gave Democrats cover, but will serve them well heading into 2008 — or at least better had considering their do-nothing image, abysmal public approval ratings and allergy to dealing decisively with the Iraq war.

Most Republican presidential candidates have offered only bromides about how they will deal with the health-care crisis, while straw-man arguments like those used by conservative Republicans to defeat the S-CHIP expansion will be less likely to win the day.

As those lobbying groups recognize, the need for health-care reform in America has become so urgent that the people who have blocked reform year in and year out will be confronted with having to get on board what are likely to be only modest reforms or get trampled.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • superdestroyer

    Maybe the next time around, the Democrats can explain how they plan to have massive expansions of entitlement programs while maintain an open border, unlimited immigration program?

    The other question to answer is with the coming Democratic party dominance of government, why should anyone want to start a career in health care?

  • Rudi

    SD Many legal immigrants become doctors here in the US. Should we block those “brown skinned people”. High risk surgical doctors are having problems, but cardiologists and plastic surgeons are becoming millionaires while doing unnecessary surgery. Why become an engineer or nurse when a business degree is easier and pays more. Free market rules …

  • Entropy

    The question is, will the congress pass a bill that Bush will sign, or will they use it as another club to beat him and Republicans with?

  • Entropy:

    A fair question and one that the Democratic leadership will be answering in the next few days since the current funding extension for the program expires in mid-November.

  • DLS

    Will the bill’s proponents, notably those using this Web site, grow up now?

    Will the defects in the bill be removed or reduced?

    Will the cost increase for the bill be reduced?

    * * *

    Superdestroyer:

    Maybe the next time around, the Democrats can explain how they plan to have massive expansions of entitlement programs while maintain an open border, unlimited immigration program?

    If they were honest, they would admit it is to get additional exploitee votes.

    The other question to answer is with the coming Democratic party dominance of government, why should anyone want to start a career in health care?

    I dispute your assumption of permanent eventual Democratic dominance; Americans have rejected this, as demonstrated with the election of Ronald Reagan (whom the losers on the Left loathed often as much as they loathe Bush’s being elected twice in contemporary times). Americans are probably going to want federal government health care for everybody in the long run, and there is a growing dependency as well as entitlement problem insofar as people and their relationship to government is concerned, but people continue to become more conservative normally as they grow older and more wise, and our population is aging.

    What is regrettable is that often the Republicans are fundamentally in agreement with Big Government, simply not as big as what the Democrats seek.

    As to problems with health care professionals in the future, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not just the eventual cost-cutting that we already have seen in some cases*. There will be massive cost-cutting in later years, combined with innumerable regulations and yes, bureaucracy (it will not go away when for-profit medicine goes away). Meanwhile, if the health care pros are kept nominally (and legally) private, they remain subject to junk-lawsuit abuse. (In fact, under any federal-or-state-government-monopoly “single-payer” [sic] system, the employees have the right to sue for federal government worker benefits as well as sovereign immunity from lawsuits, because if private provision of services that duplicate government benefits are prohibited, these people are in fact employees of government.)

    * I’m aware of this in particular for dialysis payments and payments to doctors by Medicare in general; in addition, Congress wants to force employers to pay for an additional year of dialysis before transferring responsibility to Medicare, while at the same time transplant-related immunosuppression medications are only covered for pre-retirement-age patients for three years. The #1 cause of graft failure is failure to follow the immunosuppression regimen, and the #1 reason for failure is the high cost, which can exceed $5000 monthly.

  • longhornbob

    SD said “Maybe the next time around, the Democrats can explain how they plan to have massive expansions of entitlement programs while maintain an open border, unlimited immigration program”.

    So, massive expansion of entitlements like the prescription drug benefit passed by the GOP? The hypocrisy of the GOP is astonishing.

  • krit

    SD- Longhornbob nailed it.

  • DLS

    So, massive expansion of entitlements like the prescription drug benefit passed by the GOP?

    1) Plenty of people have criticized this, the largest expansion of federal entitlements since the introduction of Medicare. Even the way it was done has been criticized: “It’s hard to remember when more people violated more stated principles to enact such an unprincipled law.”

    2) What criticism have the Democrats typically made about this benefit? That it’s not good enough (and more specific criticisms such as regarding the “doughnut hole” and payments to pharmacies).

    Or, as I said,

    What is regrettable is that often the Republicans are fundamentally in agreement with Big Government, simply not as big as what the Democrats seek.

  • krit

    I’m not saying that the Democrats aren’t in favor of domestic programs, but the prescription drug plan was confusing and was more of a windfall to pharmeceutical companies, and a bribe to get Seniors to vote for Bush than anything else. Bush then enacted tax cuts on top of the drug plan, which was totally irresponsible, because it ate up all of the surplus left by his predecessor. His war spending is being left for the next generation to pay as the Chinese own the bonds that are financing it. He’s totally the wrong person to talk about fiscal responsibility and ends up looking purely partisan- which he is.

  • DLS

    He’s totally the wrong person to talk about fiscal responsibility

    Up to now he’s been a big spender, no doubt. (a.k.a. “compassionate conservative”)

  • DLS

    the prescription drug plan was confusing and was more of a windfall to pharmeceutical companies, and a bribe to get Seniors to vote for Bush than anything else

    If people were buying drugs under this benefit that they weren’t buying before, yes, it’s a windfall. (The decision not to negotiate drug prices, which nobody has the right to expect, does not constitute a windfall.) Who else could see this as a windfall? Why, employers who dropped drug coverage for their retirees once this drug benefit was enacted, that’s who.

    The drug benefit, “doughnut hole” blemish and all, has been more successful than Democratic and liberal critics anticipated, and which they must concede.

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