Eye On Olympia

What Bush's SCHIP veto means to state coffers...

President Bush's veto of a bill expanding children's health insurance means that Washington loses $28 million it had hoped to put toward children's health coverage over the next year, according to Jim Stevenson, a spokesman for the state's Medicaid program. But unlike in some states, Washington children who have coverage now are in danger of losing it because of the veto, he said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire yesterday appealed to U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, the state's sole "no" vote in Congress. She asked him to buck "the partisan pressures you must have to support the President" and vote to override the veto.

Hastings has said he worries expanding coverage to middle-income children will hurt health insurers and edge the nation closer to "a Canadian-style, government-run health care system."

Voicing similar concerns months ago was the Washington Policy Center's Paul Guppy, who wrote

The proposed SCHIP expansion is the biggest effort to push Americans into government health care since the failure of HillaryCare in 1994. Yet, the market is providing innovative products, like Health Savings Accounts, that are expanding affordable coverage. More than a quarter of people who have purchased an HSA were previously uninsured.

Pushing through a costly expansion of SCHIP will stifle consumer choice and private initiative. It will move U.S. health care in the direction of a mandatory, centralized government-managed system, something Americans rejected years ago.

Gregoire and other Washington state officials have been watching the bill -- which she has called her top health care priority this year.

One of the reasons: The legislation also would have done away with a long-standing thorn in the side of Washington's budget writers. The state was one of the first to start covering children up to 200 percent of the poverty level under Medicaid, at a time when most states only covered children in families earning half that.

But when the federal government created SCHIP in 1997, it banned states from using the new program to cover kids already covered by Medicaid. Why that matters: the federal match for Medicaid is 50-50; for SCHIP it's a more generous 65-35.




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