SCHIP Veto Threat Puts Politics Ahead of Children

On Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee threatening a presidential veto of its bipartisan State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, reauthorization proposal. Secretary Leavitt falsely claims that the bill alters the structure of the program and is fiscally irresponsible. The veto threat puts politics ahead of children by potentially blocking reauthorization and causing kids to lose coverage.

Nothing has changed about SCHIP’s structure in the Senate bill, however. It does not expand eligibility, expand benefits, or decrease options for subsidizing private coverage—the bill maintains the program’s successful design structure.

Instead of being fiscally irresponsible, the legislation actually makes the federal government a better funding partner. In fact, the funding for the legislation is actually too little, not too much—the $35 billion funding level is not enough to cover the 6 million currently eligible uninsured children for Medicaid or SCHIP.

The administration’s opposition to this bill could block its passage and delay SCHIP reauthorization. It is opposing a program that it once praised as a success. If the program is not reauthorized, states will not have the needed funding to continue providing coverage to kids, and estimates show that nearly 1 million children will become uninsured. The only explanation for the administration’s opposition is politics. Low-income children deserve better. Congress should move ahead with reauthorizing this essential program.