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Advocates, Democrats vow to override SCHIP veto.

Soon after President Bush delivered on his promise to veto the bipartisan reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on Oct. 3, Democrats in the U.S. House vowed to round up the votes needed to override the veto.

Professional medical societies and advocacy groups said they would join in the battle. "If SCHIP is not reauthorized, millions of children will be denied basic health care needs.... We are asking Congress to override your veto," Dr. David C. Dale, president of the American College of Physicians, said in a letter to the White House.

In a statement, Dr. Edward L. Langston, board chair of the American Medical Association, called the veto disappointing. "The number of uninsured kids has increased by nearly 1 million over the past year, and action must be taken to reverse this trend."

Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said that even if the House is not successful in overriding the veto, the SCHIP legislation will eventually be approved. "I think there will be increasing pressure on the White House to offer concessions to get this adopted," Mr. Pollack said in an interview, noting that every round of votes against SCHIP will prove increasingly embarrassing to Republican lawmakers.

Advocates have some time to make their case--SCHIP, which expired Sept. 30, is able to tap funds appropriated as part of a continuing resolution that was approved by Congress to keep the government running until Nov. 16.

The SCHIP program currently covers an estimated 6 million children; the package that was passed by the House and Senate (H.R. 976) and vetoed by the president would have added $35 billion in funding to the program, increasing the enrollment by as many as 4 million children. The new funding was to come from an increase in the excise tax on tobacco.

The package introduced several new elements, including dental benefits and mental health parity. States also would have been given the ability to seek a waiver to extend coverage to low-income pregnant women. And the Department of Health and Human Services was directed to develop a core set of measures to track quality in the Medicaid and SCHIP programs.

The president had signaled his intention to veto, saying that the initial package passed by the House would be a step toward government-run health care and would give coverage to higher-income children. Those children might drop private coverage to join SCHIP, Mr. Bush said.

The final package acknowledged that the program might be overreaching and directed the Government Accountability Office to study and share best practices in states that have successfully prevented children from higher-income families from dropping private coverage. That may have been the only point of convergence for the White House and Congress.

BY ALICIA AULT

Associate Editor, Practice Trends
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Title Annotation:Practice Trends; State Children's Health Insurance Program
Author:Ault, Alicia
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 2007
Words:463
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