Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will take one of the most important actions in this new Congress when it votes to renew and improve the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
SCHIP currently provides health care coverage for 6.6 million children across America, and its reauthorization preserves existing coverage while expanding desperately needed health coverage to a total of nearly 10 million American children.
The renewal of SCHIP includes investing $35 billion in new funding. These funds are essential in strengthening SCHIP's financing and increasing health care coverage for an additional four million low-income children, all while improving the quality of health care that children receive.
We must take note that this program has the support of the majority of Congress and the American Public. In fact, the only place you can find opposition to providing health care to American children is the White House, as President Bush has made clear his intention to veto SCHIP!
A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans support expanding the SCHIP program. Additionally, The Hill newspaper reported that a Republican pollster recently found that "62 percent of Republicans favored the $35 billion expansion of the program while 59 percent of GOP voters said they wanted their representative to approve the measure."
Key members of the Republican caucus have also joined in support of this bipartisan legislation. "I am proud to be part of the bipartisan legislation to provide quality health care to millions of uninsured children. We owe it to the future of our nation," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL).
The SCHIP program not only enjoys overwhelming support with the American people and Congress, but with private health care providers and a majority of governors who administer their states' children's health care programs. In fact, the heads of the Republican Governor's and Democratic Governor's Associations issued a joint call for Congressional action, stating, "This effort to enhance the health of children is a bright spot in an otherwise troubled American health care system and we urge your continued support for it, and by extension, our nation's children." Meanwhile, NPR reports that even the Healthcare Leadership Council, which represents private health care providers, has endorsed the bill and thrown its support behind it.
With everyone from the American public, to the nation's governors, to the private insurance industry working together, it is sad to see President Bush as one of the last obstacles to ensuring the health of our nation's children.
I would close by saying this to the President, "America's children must also have a healthy start in life. ... we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need."
Those words remain as true as the first time George W. Bush spoke them in September 2004 at the Republican National Convention.
Friends, President Bush must sign SCHIP into law; the lives of literally millions of American children depend on it.