WASHINGTON – House Democrats are readying another bill after failing to override President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Thursday, while a Maryland Republican has his own ideas on the subject.
The House voted 273-156, short of the two-thirds majority needed to override. The program will expire Nov. 16, barring a compromise between Congress and the White House.
Of the eight Maryland representatives, only Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, voted “no.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the Democrats’ postponement of the override vote for two weeks after the veto, saying the delay was an “example of the political games that the American people are tired of.”
“We could be here today on a new bill,” if the override vote had been taken immediately, he said.
“Today’s vote is only the first chapter in the campaign to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable citizens have access to quality health care,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, in a statement.
A new bill could be coming shortly — from more than one place. House Democrats will attempt to pass another bill to keep the program alive, while Bartlett has thrown his weight behind another version.
Bartlett announced he is co-sponsoring a version of the SCHIP bill that will extend coverage to 75,000 Maryland children who,”would not have been helped by the expansion bill I opposed.”
The Bartlett-sponsored bill will allow tax credits for health care spending for families making up to $62,000 per year and permit states to increase eligibility for the program using their own funds, he said.
Bartlett had been under fire in the two weeks since Bush’s veto from Democrats, including Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., for being the only Maryland delegate to vote against the bill.
“I want to thank Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid for recognizing that I cast the only correct vote in the Maryland delegation against the Democrat version of SCHIP,” Bartlett said previously. “I’m proud that I voted to create the bipartisan SCHIP program in 1997. I support continuing SCHIP health insurance for all children of the working poor, but that is not what this debate is about.”
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville, disagreed.
“If America is the greatest country in the world, it’s inexcusable that children should die because of a simple tooth infection,” Wynn said on the House floor. “It’s simple; we ought to provide health insurance for all of our children.”
In February, Deamonte Driver, 12, of Clinton, died after a tooth infection went untreated because his family lacked health insurance.
The Democrats’ next version could deny the children of illegal immigrants coverage and cap eligible families’ income, according to published reports.
Both have been sticking points for Republicans, some of whom say a family of four can make $83,000 per year – 400 percent of the poverty level – and still be covered by SCHIP, according to debate on the floor Thursday. New Jersey has the highest eligibility threshold at 325 percent of the poverty level.
Maryland health officials have said that if the program isn’t reauthorized, they will have enough funding to cover the more than 100,000 children insured through SCHIP for around four months.
“Under the continuing resolution we’re entitled to about $72 million,” said John Folkemer, Maryland deputy health secretary. “But we need about $162 million.”
At that rate the program will last, “’til maybe about March,” Folkemer said.
Maryland spends more than 2.5 times the funds it is allotted and had 101,552 children enrolled in the program in June 2006, 12th most in the nation.