Bush Vetoes SCHIP as Florida KidCare Breaks New Ground

Tallahassee, FL – Now the question is the compromise. In a national firestorm, the U.S. House Republicans held the line just 13 votes shy of the two-thirds needed to override the president's veto of a bill to provide health insurance to ten million American children. And Florida's congressional delegation is right in the thick of it. Congressman Adam Putnam of Bartow, the House's third-ranking Republican, played a key role in sustaining the veto and now says it's time for a bipartisan solution.

You know, everybody's had an opportunity now for the last three weeks to make their political point, to make their statement to America about where they are on whether there ought to be a government-run health care program for everyone, or whether we ought to have a vibrant, competitive marketplace. And now it's time to go solve the problem of children's health insurance in a reasonable, bipartisan way - which is the way it was created. 22, Putnam 2

It WAS created that way, in 1997, by Republican leaders Newt Gingrich and Orrin Hatch in a rare collaboration with the Clinton White House. But now, says Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, a Democratic senior whip, the Democrats have compromised repeatedly - about as far as they'll go.

Yeah, that's where we're at. I mean, we had a bill that would have covered even more children than ten million. We pared that down, we pared down the cost of expanding access to the children's health care program. And you know, the line in the sand is drawn. The Republicans in Congress can either choose to expand access to health care for more kids, or they can stand in front of their constituents and explain why they don't care about that. 26, DWS1

Karen Woodall brought their constituents to them. The longtime Tallahassee lobbyist escorted three children, two mothers and a grandmother from Florida to their representatives' offices. 16-year-old Eduardo Morales of Dade City:

I was just there to make them support the bill so everybody could get the same benefits I get with KidCare. Not just some people can get it - I'm trying to make sure everybody gets it, so they don't have to be worrying about hospital bills and medicine bills and all that. 17, Eduardo

The bill would have increased spending on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP, by 35 billion over the next five years, continuing coverage for 6.6 million children and adding four million more. It would have paid for this by increasing the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents a pack. Putnam agreed with Bush that such a move would cause families already covered to drop their insurance.

The other example is a study by the Congressional Budget Office, which has said that the effect of this bill that the president has now vetoed would be to drive two million children who currently have private insurance coverage out of that coverage and into the government-run program. Well, that shouldn't be the purpose of this bill at all. We just want to make sure as many people as possible have health coverage. 23, Putnam 3

Nonsense, says Wasserman Schultz. The bill that Bush vetoed already set requirements for covering low-income children.

The Republicans continue to insist that the legislation that we passed that the president vetoed covers children who are either covered by insurance or beyond low-income, and that's simply inaccurate. The bill already covers low-income children, it would cover ten million of them, and they chose politics over children's health. 21, DWS3

Florida KidCare program - the state's version of S-CHIP, which covers Eduardo Morales - has just seen its numbers jump by record amounts after its first big enrollment drive since 2004. In August, more than 38 thousand applications came in a 15 percent increase over August 2006. Nearly 40 thousand more came in September, a 30 percent jump. The numbers so impressed the Republican leaders of the Florida Legislature that they added 1.1 million dollars more for KidCare to the budget just approved. Lobbyist Karen Woodall:

We have hope that our state legislators in the Republican Party who do get this and are trying it work will contact their members and their colleagues and urge them to rethink their positions. 15, KW1

Wasserman Schultz, a former state representative and state senator, says that might make all the difference.

The Legislature definitely needed to step up and vote to put more funds in to expand access to more kids in Florida, because they weren't even able to cover the kids that were eligible here in Florida because the Republicans here in the Legislature weren't willing to put in the funding. So they're moving in the right direction. They need to go quite a bit further. That will give us the ammunition to go to Washington and make people understand that this is a program that's desperately needed. 26, DWS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to have the bill back on President Bush's desk in two weeks. She vows it will still cover ten million children and have the same funding source: tobacco. For Florida Public Radio