Yesterday, I joined fifteen people in a candlelight vigil for SCHIP. While standing in front of the NCGOP Headquarters with my homemade sign, “SCHIP Keeps Kids Healthy”, I had time to ponder the reality of this political debate and veto override showdown. Here is what I decided: voting against children’s health insurance simply makes no sense. It is in the best interest of our state and our nation to insure children’s health. Medical research has shown that preventive care is more cost effective then treating advanced illnesses. You would be hard pressed to find people who feel that taking care of a child’s health needs is not a top priority for any state.
A growing and vocal majority of Americans support the expansion of SCHIP. CBS news just released a poll showing 81% of Americans support this legislation. NC Policy Watch Carolina Issues Poll shows that 60% of North Carolinians support the expansion of SCHIP. Then there is the informal poll, standing on the side of the road and watching drivers give us the thumbs up or an approving honk. Two Democratic Representatives have finally heard the growing choir saying support children’s health care and have decided to vote for kids. On Tuesday Representative McIntyre stated he would vote to override the veto and late today Representative Etheridge decided to join him, both reversing their previous votes.
President Bush had proposed a $5 billion appropriation over 5 years. At that rate, children currently enrolled in SCHIP would be dropped from the program. In the state of North Carolina we had to move children from SCHIP to Medicaid because we ran out of funding dollars. The current legislation is asking for $35 billion and would cover an additional 4 million children.
The Bush administration has also been spinning almost nonstop the issue of the federal poverty level. The current legislation places a limitation on the matching rate for states that propose to cover children with effective family income exceeding 300% of the federal poverty line. The current federal poverty level for a family of four is set at approximately $20,000. That would mean 300% of the federal poverty level is approximately $60,000, not $80,000 as the Bush Administration has stated repeatedly. In North Carolina we have never covered children above 200% of FPL. Over 1,300 children with special needs in North Carolina are receiving their health insurance through SCHIP.
As the clock ticks down on the veto override vote it is imperative that each Representative take a hard look at the importance of providing health care to our most vulnerable citizens, the children. I didn’t have to look far last night to see the importance of taking care of our future. Three of the people holding signs with me were children. They were asking our leadership to protect other children and to do the right thing by voting for the override.
NC Policy Watch Carolina Issues Poll: