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Freshmen 42: The Fight Over SCHIP

A handful of freshman House Democrats are at the center of a fight over whether to expand a children's insurance program.

The five -- Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Steve Kagen (Wisc.) and Tim Mahoney (Fla.) -- have already been hit by insurance industry ads attacking their voting records on the issue. Now they'll get some defensive help from a labor coalition that supports the expansion of the plan, which is known as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Democratic leaders consider SCHIP one of the cornerstone issues for their majority.

The coalition running the ads is led by Americans United for Change and backed by AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union. The spots aim to shore up the five lawmakers as the House and Senate get ready to hammer out differences between their two SCHIP bills. The labor coalition is positioning the ads as an attack on President Bush's Iraq policy: "For the amount of money Bush spends in Iraq in one week, we could cover 800,000 uninsured kids for an entire year."

[Listen to one of the ad here. This one is in support of Kagen. The other ads are virtually the same with a different name swapped in.]

The fight over SCHIP is just the latest example of how critical the Democratic freshmen are to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's legislative agenda. The Freshmen 42 voted for the original House SCHIP bill by a 37-4 margin, with one lawmaker not present.

Arcuri, Giffords, Gillibrand, Kagen and Mahoney all voted for the measure. The four freshman Democrats who voted 'nay' were: Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Baron Hill (Ind.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.). The final roll call vote was 225-204, with five Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the bill.

The insurance industry, including America's Health Insurance Plans and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, have launched ad campaigns targeting vulnerable Democrats, the majority of which are freshman lawmakers. These groups argue that the House legislation is expanding health care for one group -- poor children -- at the expense of another, the elderly, with $157 billion in cuts to a Medicare program over 10 years.

These outside group campaigns have become a staple in congressional and presidential politics, but they tend to take on a decidedly issue based aura in the off-year of an election. In this case, the backdrop is Bush's threatened veto of the House-approved legislation. The Americans United coalition recognizes it also needs to go on the offensive against Republicans to try to round up enough votes to override Bush's veto -- which is a heavy lift, given that the first SCHIP vote came up about 65 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to beat his veto pen.

But the group will be organizing some field events, delivering petitions to vulnerable GOP incumbents and trying to continue the kids-versus-Iraq message (as opposed to the kids-versus-the-elderly theme of the insurance industry).

"The bottom line message: after spending billions on Iraq, President Bush is preparing to veto children's health coverage and leave millions of kids uninsured. We are calling on Republicans to get their priorities straight," a labor coalition memo says.

By Paul Kane  |  September 13, 2007; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: Jack Reed: Key Democratic Player on Iraq


SCHIP should not be vetoed..if the President does so,Republicans will suffer during the election..add SCHIP to all the scandals rocking the GOP and you can see that they cannot afford to mess this up. see:

what is wrong with providing health care to less fortunate children? President may think emergency room visits guarantee health care but that is not how it works in the country

politics desk,the newsroom

Posted by: bhumika | September 13, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

since when did the private insurance industry care
seniors vs poor kids
typical gop wedge politics
its about protecting their private right to make profits

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What a nice change to see factual reporting instead of the bias commentary given by other reporters. Kane should be commended. If only the insurance industry followed such guidelines, the public wouldn't be misled by statements like the claims being made by the insurance industry that the Democratic version of SCHIP pits kid against seniors. Patently false.

The Democratic House proposal will help stop the unnecessary squandering of Medicare resources by ending the Bush-backed subsidy to the insurance industry in the form of Medicare Advantage payments. All legislators who are true believers in holding down wasteful spending by the federal government should be in support of the House version which accomplishes exactly that. Those who don't have caved into the insurance industry's clout on Capitol Hill.

The savings realized by this effort will help kids and seniors while helping shore up some of the financial problems of Medicare. Thanks for just the facts.

Posted by: D Martin | September 14, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Nashville, Tennessee is city that beholds many great industry marvels, and one in particular is health care. Many "university hospital towns", such as Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina in the case of Duke University, and Nashville as well boast their own subsidized universal health care for their citizens, the working poor, the disabled, elderly and students, by making their schools provide health care.
The university hospital systems in the United States should oversee health care reform in the United States, instead of carelessly mishandling medical money. An effective program that would put education, research and corporate underwriting hand in hand with state, local and federal officials' resources, like the health department or a place like the Queen Washington health care center here on campus at Tennessee State University, in touch with places like Vanderbilt University or Duke, as well as places that are strapped for cash, like Walter Reed Veterans Medical Center . This universal platform could be easily implemented.
Several people who reside in Tennessee are enrolled in the state's TennCare program, which during both of co- creator Governor Phil Bredesen's administration has been fraught with serious problems that have been reflected in the Tennessean local newspaper, Tennessee Corporate America, and by several Tennesseans who have lost their Tenn. Care coverage, for whatever reason. The Tennessee Primary Care Association has been implementing the same ideas that I have previously discussed in this article. Their "Grassroots' Action Center" has recently been active, in terms of networking in Washington , D.C.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has written an open letter to the Honorable President George W. Bush, depicting the data that this publication is trying to present in this article has 44 Congressional advocates that signed the letter, and has already gone to press. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) were urged to sign this letter that I am going to publish:

"We are writing today to express our strong opposition to the recent requirements laid out by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The letter sent from CMS to State Health Officials on August 17th included new requirements for states that wish to continue covering or those seeking to extend coverage to children in families with incomes above 250 percent of the federal poverty level. We oppose these new requirements as they will result in the loss of coverage for tens of thousands of children and block efforts underway by other states working to insure more kids. SCHIP provides health insurance to low income children whose parents earn too much.

Earn too much! Show me a family in either D.C. or Nashville that earns too much! Nooo, SCHIP needs to include adults, like my roommate, John Sjuggerud, who needs a liver transplant and mental health treatment, and drives a semi truck for a living in New Jersey, the home of Robert Menendez. Universal health care means everyone finding a solution. He tried to get glasses at Doctor's Valu Vision, only to get the door of insurance slammed in his face after he paid in 2K. We gave up on health insurance and learned how to cope, but the delegates still got paid.
He sure didn't. Boo Hoo.

Posted by: tsutigerbelle | September 18, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Kids SHOULD have priority over seniors when it comes to health care the public pays for, particularly preventive care, like well-baby checks, immunizations, etc. Children have their whole lives in front of them and it is in society's best interest to assure they can make it to maturity to be healthy productive citizens. Seniors have their whole lives behind them and have made their contribution. It's truly a waste of resources to spend 85% of public medical dollars for the last 18 months of a person's life. But that's how the distribution currently is spent. Hard decisions have to be made when resources are finite - but that's what this country now faces - who do you want making this decision? The same people that gave us Terri Shiavo? Think about it....

Posted by: JoshuasGrandma | September 19, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

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