During round two of the presidential debates on Tuesday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News asked the candidates about health insurance? The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has played an important role in reducing the number of uninsured children in America, was one of the many topics where the two candidates differed.
Created in 1997, SCHIP was designed to cover uninsured children in families with incomes that are modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid. In 2007, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have increased funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years and expanded SCHIP to more low-income families. According to a Kaiser Network report from October 2007, the additional funding would have been paid for by a 61 cents per pack increase in the tobacco tax.
Throughout the debate Sen. John McCain unsuccessfully sought to have Sen. Barack Obama quantify the fine that he would charge parents if they neglected to insure their children. The Illinois senator never supplied a dollar amount for the fines that would be applied to families, but he rebutted explaining that insuring children is relatively inexpensive.
“These programs have been enormously important and it is a shame that last year we didn’t expand these programs,” said David Cutler, professor of applied economics at Harvard University and adviser to Obama, Wednesday during a Webcast about Obama’s healthcare plan. “These programs are very important to Obama.”
In 2007, the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council released its Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard, which ranked members on 10 votes Congress made on issues affecting children. The highest score possible was 100%. McCain’s record was rated the worst with a score of 10%. Obama, a new senator at the time of publication, was not rated but he supports expanding eligibility for SCHIP. According to the report, McCain was absent or voting “present” for eight out of 10 children-related votes.
McCain says that he wants children to have health insurance, but he voted against the expansion of SCHIP. He wants to focus on currently eligible children who are not enrolled and expand the program only to low-income uninsured children who are not eligible for SCHIP under the current policy.
Marcia A. Wade is a reporter for BlackEnterprise.com.