Congressional efforts to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) were thwarted again in the first week of November when Senate Republican leaders forced a vote on the latest bill before an adequate compromise could be reached. Although the new bill passed in both houses, President Bush has said that his objections to the original bill have not been adequately addressed, and that he would therefore veto the new bill just as he did the earlier version. Negotiations to achieve a compromise in Congress were making progress, but were cut short when Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) demanded the issue be brought to a vote. Once again, the bill did not receive enough support in the House to sustain a veto override.
SCHIP is an important federal program that provides healthcare coverage to children in low-income families, including families affected by bleeding disorders. The President cited the cost of the bill and the potential for insured children to seek coverage under SCHIP as some of the reasons for his opposition. A statement issued by the White House following the original veto described the expansion of the SCHIP program as “part of the Democrats' incremental plan toward government-run health care for all Americans.”
If the President makes good on his threat to veto the new legislation, legislators will again be forced back to the drafting table to see whether a compromise can be achieved. However, many states are already reporting that their SCHIP coffers are running dry, which could create a crisis for some children and families in the near future. One possibility is that Congress may temporarily reauthorize the program in its current form, with no expansion, until a better solution can be found. However, it is unclear whether that stopgap measure would cover those children who became eligible for SCHIP in states that in recent years requested and received permission to expand the program on their own.
The National Hemophilia Foundation supports the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP and has expressed its view to the President and members of Congress. We will continue to monitor and report on this issue as it progresses, and ensure that the concerns of Americans affected by bleeding and clotting disorders are heard.