President Bush has called on Congress to approve a temporary extension of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program before it expires on Sept. 30.
The approach the Democrats have taken to expand the program to children from higher-income families has been irresponsible, Bush said at a news conference, referring to proposals in the House and Senate to fund the program$35 billion to $50 billion above its current baseline over five years.
House and Senate lawmakers are in the process of finalizing an SCHIP reauthorization package based on the Senates proposal to increase spending by $35 billion over five years. Bush, however, repeated his threat to veto the legislation, which caused an immediate outcry among policy groups and congressional Democrats.
HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, speaking immediately after Bush, said it was unlikely Congress would deliver a bill before Sept. 30, and that Congress should focus on extending the existing program to ensure continuity of care, until differences between the Democrats and the White House can be worked out, he said.
In the meantime, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, accused the CMS of rewriting a progress report it issued on SCHIP. Although the original draft, written by Mathematica Policy Research, said substitution of private health coverage with SCHIP coverage, or crowd out was not an issue, Baucus asserted that the CMS edited the final report to say crowd out does occur.
In a letter to Baucus, acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems enclosed an agency memo that indicated that crowd out does occur according to Congressional Budget Office figures. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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