21 states to exhaust childrens health funds in 2008

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans sustained President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill for the second time in as many weeks, ignoring a new report that 21 states will run out of SCHIP funds in 2008 unless Congress approves the program with a big increase over current spending.

According to the study by the Congressional Research Service, nine states will run out of money for the children’s health program by next March: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

The current federal budget for the program is $5 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. But 21 states estimate they will need at least $7.6 billion to continue coverage of those youngsters now enrolled just for the current year, $1.6 billion above the current level.

Several states have run deficits to extend coverage to some of the 9 million children in the U.S. who lack health insurance. To help offset those deficits, the bill vetoed by Bush would have doubled funding for the program in 14 states, including Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi and North Carolina.

The bill would have provided $9 billion in the current fiscal year and $35 billion over the next five years to ensure protection for the 6.6 million children now covered and expand coverage to an additional 4 million uninsured children.

The Republican obstructionism is already hitting children hard. Lesley Cummings, executive director of the agency that runs SCHIP in California, told The New York Times, “The stalemate in Washington is having a real impact on children here. Given the continued uncertainty, we will have to start dropping children from the program — 64,000 a month starting in January — to save the money. This is getting less and less hypothetical.”

The Republicans pitched a fit a few days ago when Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) blasted Bush for stiff-arming children who lack health care while demanding another $200 billion for the war in Iraq. “You don’t have money to fund the war or children,” Stark told his warhawk GOP colleagues. “But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people … to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

But the Republicans kept quiet about the essence of Stark’s comments.

Stark said, “This bill would provide health care for 10 million children and, unlike the president’s own kids, these children can’t see a doctor or receive necessary care. Six million are insured through the Children’s Health Insurance Program and they’ll do better in school, and in life.”

He continued, “I hope my California Republican colleagues will understand that if they don’t vote to override this veto, they are destroying health care for many of our children in California.”