Press Releases

Contact: First Focus
Phone: 202-657-0670

Administration Ignoring American Support for Covering Children


ALEXANDRIA, VA – Despite a recent New York Times/CBS News poll indicating that 84 percent of Americans support expanding health coverage to all children without health insurance, President Bush has threatened to veto recently released yet underfunded legislation to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Last week , the Senate Finance Committee released the proposed CHIP renewal legislation, which would increase the current funding by $35 billion over the next five years. After its release, Bush Administration officials threatened to veto the bill. In order to insure half of the 9 million American children currently without health insurance, an allocation of $50 billion over a five-year period would be necessary.

“With a majority of the American public supporting coverage for all uninsured American children, we hope that Congress and the Administration can come together on a proposal that would insure half of those 9 million children,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus. “Why is the President singling out and picking on children? If the Medicare prescription drug benefit is good for our nation’s senior citizens, certainly we can do better for our nation’s children as well.”

First Focus is committed to ensure that all children in this nation have access to health coverage to ensure their health and well-being.

“By failing to provide sufficient funding for this highly successful children’s health program, many of our nation’s children will be left behind. Our goal of $50 billion represents just one-third of one percent of the federal budget,” added Lesley. “Unfortunately, the Senate was unable to fully fund SCHIP to the point needed to make a full impact in covering more than half of the 8-9 million uninsured children in America.”

“However, it is a tremendous improvement on the Administration’s budget proposal, which would have increased the number of uninsured children by over 1 million,” continued Lesley. “The Senate bill not only covers those children but an additional 3.3 million children over and above the Administration’s proposal and should be commended for that.”

In fact, the Senate bill makes some very significant and important strides and improvements for children’s health, including:

Provisions that provide for significant outreach and enrollment efforts to find and enroll the 5-6 million children in this nation who are eligible but unenrolled in either Medicaid or SCHIP
Provisions to provide states with critically important incentives to improve and expand coverage to children
Coverage of pregnant women to improve the healthy start of children, particularly in light of the fact infant mortality is increasing for the first time in 45 years
Provisions to reduce the negative impact of onerous citizenship and identity requirements on children who are U.S. citizens

Disappointment remains with respect to:

  • A $15 billion shortfall in the legislation for children the next five years and a $50 billion or more shortfall in the next five years due to inadequate out-year funding
  • Failure to provide for Express Lane enrollment, which would reduce the bureaucratic red tape in Medicaid and SCHIP that prevents numbers of children from getting access to the health services they need
  • Failure to, as the Washington Post called for, “Remember Deamonte,” as there is nothing in the bill to ensure dental and mental health coverage is a core benefit so that SCHIP can “wrap-around” dental and mental health services due to inadequate private sector coverage for the children in low-income families
  • The reduction in the matching rate for children above 300% of poverty, which will provide a financial disincentive for states to “finish the job” and cover all children in their state – the goal we should all seek to achieve

Lesley added: “I remain hopeful that as this bill moves through the Senate, improvements will be made and that the House of Representatives will complete the job and do what is right for children. Unfortunately the biggest threat to the health and well-being of our nation’s children appears to be the Administration’s budget proposals and veto threats. As such we urge the Administration to discontinue their attacks on what is the most successfully children’s program in over a decade.”