The Senate on Thursday is expected to pass and send to President Bush legislation providing health insurance to more than 10 million children. Incredibly, Bush has threatened to veto it. More than two-thirds of senators are expected to vote for the bill, enough to override a veto. The House late Tuesday approved the same legislation, but not by a veto-proof majority.
The bill would provide $60 billion to expand and extend for five years the popular Children's Health Insurance Program. The Vermont Congressional Delegation - Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy along with Congressman Peter Welch - said the legislation would save health insurance for more than 2,000 Vermont children threatened by a Bush administration plan to cut off coverage.
Vermont's Dr. Dynasaur program now offers comprehensive health coverage to children from households with incomes up to 300 percent of poverty -- $61,950 for a family of four. Eleven other states also offer coverage to kids from middle-income families. The legislation will cover an additional 4 million children nationwide - several thousand more in Vermont -- on top of the 6 million currently in the program.
It also would undo for now the Bush administration rule change, announced Aug. 17, that threatens to cut millions of kids now covered. That administration has moved to tighten restrictions on states like Vermont that cover children above 250 percent of the federal poverty level. In Vermont, the new rules would mean more than 2000 kids would lose their health coverage.
The bipartisan bill also fends off another sudden Bush administration change announced this summer that would cost Vermont more than $20 million each year, by barring states like Vermont from using Medicaid funds for rehabilitation services for students with disabilities in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The Vermont delegation opposes the rules change, and Leahy and Sanders helped convince Senate leaders to include a six-month moratorium in the bill.
"It is outrageous that President Bush is threatening to veto a bill to help sick children," said Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee. "We are the only major nation which does not provide health insurance for all children. Instead of throwing kids off health care, Bush should be working with us to cover more kids."