SCHIP Veto Sustained
President Bush got another victory today, as Congress was unable to override his veto of a massive, costly expansion of SCHIP.
House Democrats were unable Thursday to override President Bush’s veto of their pre-election year effort to expand a popular government health insurance program to cover 10 million children. The bill had bipartisan support but the 273-156 roll call was 13 votes short of the two-thirds that majority supporters needed to enact the bill into law over Bush’s objections. The bill had passed the Senate with a veto-proof margin.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program now subsidizes health care insurance coverage for about 6 million children at a cost of about $5 billion a year. The vetoed bill would have added 4 million more children, most of them from low-income families, to the program at an added cost of $7 billion annually.
Republican opponents said the bill would encourage too many middle-income families to substitute government-subsidized insurance for their private insurance. The bill gives states financial incentives to cover families with incomes up to three times the federal poverty level — $61,950 for a family of four. “That’s not low-income. That’s a majority of households in America,” said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif.
Providing health care for kids is politically popular, as evidenced by the bipartisan support for the bill in Congress. Then again, Bush isn’t running for re-election. Regardless, the end result will be a compromise that will almost certainly still somewhat expand the program.
The math on this is rather odd. We’re currently spending $5 billion to cover 6 million kids, or $833 per kid. The bill would have added another 4 million kids at $7 billion, or $1750 per kid. Granted that the unit costs are likely to increase somewhat in the future but shouldn’t the incremental cost still go down rather than up?