Congress' SCHIP bill extends plan
far past poor kids

Contrary to some reports, President Bush has for months voiced strong support for a 20-percent funding increase for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which funds PeachCare here in Georgia. But the President cannot support turning a program for poor children into an entitlement for middle-income families, some with incomes up to $83,000 a year.

That's what the SCHIP bill passed by Congress would do. It would raise taxes on working Americans, more than double SCHIP spending, and continue the trend toward using SCHIP to cover adults instead of children. Half a dozen states already spend more SCHIP money on adults than on children. Thankfully, Georgia is not one of them.

Many of the families Congress would add to SCHIP already have private insurance. Why would we want to replace private health insurance with public assistance? It makes more sense to focus our limited resources on enrolling the already eligible Georgia kids who aren't signed up.

President Bush knows that health insurance is a critical challenge for American families. Besides renewing SCHIP, he also wants to give every family a $15,000 tax break to buy insurance. According to the Levin Group, the President's overall health access proposal would mean nearly 20 million more Americans with health insurance. Let's do both. Let's refocus SCHIP to help poor kids first and then make health care more affordable for everyone.

Chris Downing is the Regional Director of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services