After Bush's shameful veto of the bipartisan-supported SCHIP expansion, all eyes are on the House of Representatives and the push to find the 15-ish Republican votes that would override the veto. Mike Simpson, one of Idaho's two representatives and a medical professional himself, voted for the SCHIP bill, saying:
"As a fiscal conservative, former dentist, and a person who believes we must invest in our children’s health and education, my vote in favor of the CHIP bill was a difficult decision.
"The bill ends coverage of childless adults and returns the program back to its original intent – a health insurance program to cover our country’s most vulnerable children. The bill also provides much needed dental coverage for these children in hopes that tragic losses, such as the young boy in Maryland who died from an abscessed tooth, can be avoided. Among other issues, the legislation prohibits new waivers to cover parents in the CHIP program.
"In order for a child to grow, prosper, and contribute to society, they must have access to quality healthcare. By improving healthcare and children’s access to it, we are investing in our nation’s most valuable and precious resource, our children."
Bill Sali, Idaho's first district representative, has demonstrated much more interest in spreading misinformation about this much-needed bill for Idaho's uninsured children than finding solutions for Idaho's uninsured. Sali's propaganda made its way into my inbox this morning, including this gem:
"This bill would raise taxes in order to provide a form of welfare for middle income people and illegal aliens. In short, this bill is going to hurt the people it is supposed to help, and help the people it shouldn't," said Sali. "This bill is very harmful. It takes money from hardworking Americans while opening the door to provide health insurance to undocumented foreign nationals, including gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists. Further, it taxes Idahoans to provide health insurance to people already covered by private insurance or those who can afford to get it."
The SCHIP bill, which was originally intended to focus on low-income children, expands the program to include people who are well above the federal poverty level - providing coverage to families who earn in excess of $80,000 a year. By allowing people with high incomes to join the program, it encourages people to give up their private insurance in favor of government-provided health coverage, and requires Idahoans to subsidize healthcare for people on the east coast earning more than $80,000.
Simply put, the Republican talking points Sali is leaning on are dead wrong. SCHIP coverage can only be provided to American citizens who provide social security numbers as is written in the law, and while it is possible for some states to increase the maximum income eligibility level (tied to the poverty level), these are states whose living costs far outstrip Idaho's. These states also provide far more tax dollars to the federal coffers than Idaho does (simply by virtue of Idaho's small population and relatively small incomes), and therefore will foot a proportionally larger chunk of the national bill than Idaho will.
I suppose it is possible that there are "gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists" amongst the ranks of uninsured American children, but if that's the case, there are more direct ways of dealing with such law enforcement problems than denying teeth cleanings and antibiotics to thousands of low-income American children. Sali has aligned himself with George W. Bush's veto and against the uninsured children and the majority of voters in this country.
If you're as unimpressed as I am, feel free to contact Sali and let him know.
Cross-posted at F-words.