ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, First Focus President Bruce Lesley issued the following statement following the veto threat issued by Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt regarding the highly successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

“Secretary Leavitt claims that the Administration is ‘committed’ to the continuation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Unfortunately, that commitment is to removing 1 million children currently enrolled in the program. The President’s budget proposal, which called for an increase of only $5 billion for CHIP, would actually increase the number of uninsured American children from 9 to 10 million. With a recent New York Times/CBS News poll indicating that 84% of Americans want to expand the program to cover ALL children, this is not the type of ‘commitment’ the American public is looking for.

The disparity between the Administration’s proposal the Senate Finance Committee’s legislation is health insurance for 4-5 million American children. That’s not trivial.

In addition, the private plans that President Bush and Secretary Leavitt tout as part of their tax credit proposal are the same plans that would cover children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and are also the same as the drug plans that senior citizens have through Medicare and the president’s employees have through Federal Employees Health Benefits program.

Moreover, the President’s tax proposal alternative provides a tax credit of $7500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. With average cost of family coverage being 2.7 times that of individuals, not twice the cost, children are completely left out of the president’s plan. Therefore, even the alternative shortchanges children.

Furthermore, the goal of $50 billion represents just one-third of one percent of the entire federal budget. It is unfortunate that this extremely small fraction of the budget, which would make extremely large strides towards covering American children, is being used for ideological and philosophical partisan politics.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to the health and well-being of our nation’s children is the Administration’s own budget proposals and veto threats. It is wrong for the Administration to continue their attacks on what is the most successful children’s program in over a decade.”