ALEXANDRIA, VA – First Focus President Bruce Lesley released the following statement regarding the Senate’s passage of bipartisan legislation to renew the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The bill that was approved today was modified from its original version, passed earlier this month, to address concerns of opponents:

“It is clear that President Bush will veto this legislation. This is no surprise. However, as the President and Congress continue to argue over important aspects of the program’s renewal, states can no longer wait. They are beginning to cut, cap, or limit coverage, which will have a real and direct impact on the health and well-being of our nation’s children.

If the program is again extended in its current form with an estimated shortfall of $1.6 billion, twenty-one states will not be able to sustain their SCHIP programs in the coming year and up to 1.4 million children and pregnant women could be put at risk. This is an unacceptable reality and as a result, Congress must enact a responsible short term extension of the program immediately.

The fiscal year 2008 shortfall is an urgent problem that requires immediate Congressional attention. No matter what action Congress takes in the coming weeks to address the long-term health of the SCHIP program, fiscal year 2008 funding must be provided that reflects the level of need identified by the states. States already are developing ‘terrible and ugly’ contingency plans to cut off currently enrolled children and are considering plans to establish waiting lists or to limit benefits for children

In his run for re-election, the President promised to cover millions of children without health insurance. Now, by threatening to veto SCHIP for the second time, he is instead creating the reality that hundreds of thousands of children could be removed from the program.”