CHICAGO – As part of his continued efforts to provide children and families with access to affordable healthcare coverage, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to the Illinois congressional delegation urging them to provide needed support for a bipartisan State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill that will provide and expand coverage to an estimated 10 million American children.
On Wednesday, Jan. 23, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to override the president’s veto of H.R. 3963, the revised bipartisan Children’s Health Bill, which the president vetoed a second time on Dec. 12.
“Since you last approved the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with overwhelming bipartisan support, talk in Washington has turned to stimulating job growth, curtailing our nation’s mortgage crisis and improving consumer confidence,” Gov. Blagojevich states in his letter. “In the face of this growing economic uncertainty, one thing should be certain, American families must know their children will have access to healthcare.”
H.R. 3963 was designed to continue to provide and improve access to healthcare coverage for American children. The bill renews and improves the SCHIP program by reauthorizing it for five years, ensuring that 6.6 million children who currently participate in the program continue to receive healthcare coverage, and extending coverage to nearly 4 million uninsured children from low-income families below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
The bill calls for investing an additional $35 billion over five years in SCHIP in order to strengthen program financing through increasing the federal government’s financial support; increasing healthcare coverage for low-income, uninsured children; and improving the quality of healthcare children receive. As a funding mechanism, the bill proposes raising the tobacco tax by 61 cents a pack.
The president has consistently opposed efforts to build on the SCHIP program’s success. On Oct. 3, the president vetoed the first bipartisan SCHIP bill. A second SCHIP bill was revised to meet several concerns raised by the president, including ensuring children from low-income families are given priority for enrollment, phasing out adults that are currently included in the program, including provisions that prevent “crowding out” of private coverage and enacting strict application requirements that work to deny benefits to illegal immigrants. The revised bill passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 265 to 142, with 43 Republicans voting for it, and passed the Senate by a veto-proof margin of 64 to 30, with 17 Republicans voting for in favor. Still, on Dec. 12, the President vetoed this revised bipartisan compromise denying healthcare to millions of children.
“Few things are more important than the health of our children. By repeatedly vetoing the reauthorization of this important program, President Bush is placing the health and well-being of millions of children at risk,” Gov. Blagojevich’s letter states.
Governor Blagojevich’s letter to the Illinois delegation follows:
To Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation:
Since Congress last approved the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with overwhelming bipartisan support, talk in Washington has turned to stimulating job growth, curtailing our nation’s mortgage crisis and improving consumer confidence. In the face of this growing economic uncertainty, one thing should be certain, American families must know their children will have access to healthcare. I urge you to vote to override President Bush’s veto of this measure that will provide low- and middle-income parents with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children will have access to healthcare when they need it.
Few things are more important than the health of our children. By repeatedly vetoing the reauthorization of this important program, President Bush is placing the health and well-being of millions of children at risk. In 2006, the last year where figures are available, the number of uninsured children in American grew by 710,000 to reach 9.4 million.
While I am committed to ensuring all children in Illinois have access to health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 700,000 children nationwide stand to lose their current SCHIP coverage if the program’s funding is not increased, largely because of the decline in employer-sponsored coverage. That would represent a doubling of the rate of growth of uninsured children.
On behalf of Illinois families and children, I thank you for your consideration of the SCHIP reauthorization bill and urge you to support its passage.
Rod R. Blagojevich