# State Children's Health Insurance Program

Grassley votes against expanding children's health care

The U.S. Senate voted 66-32 yesterday to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). All of the no votes were Republicans, including Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley. He was ready to sign every blank check for George W. Bush, but when it comes to expanding the safety net for families lacking health insurance, he’s Mr. Deficit Hawk.

Senator Tom Harkin issued this statement about the bill:

Renewal of the program will allow Iowa’s HAWK-I program to enroll 11,000 more Iowa kids

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement after the Senate passed legislation that will allow states to continue to provide basic health insurance to kids whose parents cannot afford private insurance, but who do not qualify for Medicaid. The State’s Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) Act, known as HAWK-I in Iowa, passed the Senate by a vote of 66-32.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each month, which means more working-family kids are at risk of losing health care coverage. The passage of this bill means more of those parents won’t have to worry about whether they will be able to afford their son or daughter’s next doctor’s appointment,” said Harkin. “Extending health insurance to 11 million children from working families is not about ideology, and it is not about left or right. In a humane society, no child should go uninsured. I am proud that this is one of the first bills that we will pass in the new Congress because it is a great example of what we can do when we work together.”

Talk to anyone who works in the office of a pediatrician or family doctor. During a recession, families cut back even on checkups and other doctors’ visits for their kids.

Thousands of people are losing jobs (and in many cases health insurance) every month. Unemployed people rarely can afford to pay into COBRA plans:

The cost of buying health insurance for unemployed Americans who try to purchase coverage through a former employer consumes 30 percent to 84 percent of standard unemployment benefits, according to a report released yesterday.

Because few people can afford that, the authors say, the result is a growing number of people being hit with the double whammy of no job and no health coverage.

In 1985, Congress passed legislation enabling newly unemployed Americans to extend their employer-based health insurance for up to 18 months. But under the program, known as COBRA, the individual must pay 102 percent of the policy’s full cost.

“COBRA health coverage is great in theory and lousy in reality,” said Ron Pollack, whose liberal advocacy group, Families USA, published the analysis. “For the vast majority of workers who are laid off, they and their families are likely to join the ranks of the uninsured.”

The good news is that despite the misguided ideology of Republicans like Chuck Grassley (and Tom Latham and Steve King), thousands more Iowa families will be able to gain coverage for their kids through HAWK-I. We’re a long way from the universal health care reform we need, but this is a step in the right direction.

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King and Latham vote against health care for children (again)

Great news, everyone! Today the House of Representatives approved an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In Iowa, this program is known as HAWK-I, and it provides coverage for thousands of children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but not wealthy enough to purchase health insurance:

The child health bill would provide $32.3 billion over four and a half years to continue coverage for seven million children who now rely on the program and to extend coverage to more than four million who are uninsured.

“This is a day of triumph for America’s children,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said. “We put women and children first.”

After years of frustration, Democrats were exultant.

“Today is a new day,” Representative Dave Loebsack of Iowa. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said, “Passing this bill sends a very important signal that change has come to Washington as a result of the last election.”

Representatives Bruce Braley and Leonard Boswell joined Loebsack in voting for the bill, which passed by a comfortable margin of 289-139. But as you can see from the roll call, Representatives Steve King and Tom Latham voted no.

King has been a proud opponent of the SCHIP program for years. In the bizarro world he inhabits, this program is Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.

Gee, I thought it was for people like my friend, who owns her own business but couldn’t afford health insurance for her kids after her husband got laid off. With the enormous job losses of the last few months, more and more families will need this program.

Anyway, we’ve all come to expect this kind of vote from King.

I hope some Democrats who crossed over in the fourth district to support Latham will open their eyes now. Today’s vote should not surprise anyone, because Latham has voted against expanding the SCHIP program on several occasions.

Still, I doubt this is what most voters had in mind when they saw television ads touting Latham’s “trusted leadership” on health care.

The Senate will take up this bill within the next two weeks, and I doubt Republicans will be able to filibuster it. So, Barack Obama will have a major achievement on health care very early in his presidency. Let’s hope it will be the first of many.

UPDATE: In typically dishonest fashion, Steve King (who never met a tax cut for the rich he didn’t like) claims the SCHIP bill “provides new benefits to illegal immigrants and wealthy families at the expense of low-income children.”

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