Apparently, US President George thinks Iraq and the tobacco industry are more important than children's healthcare. He's vetoed a bill to expand a children's healthcare insurance program, claiming it is "too expensive." His veto came after the bill passed 67-29 in the Senate. Eighteen Republican senators joined Democrats last week to approve the legislation. The House of Representatives passed the bill 265-159, short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Bush's veto.
The bill proposed higher tobacco taxes to provide an extra $35bn to insure ten million children. The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) currently subsidises health care for 6.6 million people, most of them children. The program helps families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can't afford private health insurance coverage.
As per usual, the president thinks he knows better than our lawmakers. Can you imagine the decision-making process that must have gone through his mind? 'Hmmm, let's see - shall we spend tax dollars for children's healthcare or for funding the war in Iraq? And that tobacco lobby - better not forget how powerful it is! Wouldn't want to raise tobacco taxes; lobbyists might cause a fuss.'
The sad truth is that after spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, then asking Congress for an additional $200 billion, Bush is unwilling to address urgent priorities at home. For the amount of American tax dollars spent in one week in Iraq, 1.8 million children could be insured for an entire year. For the price of one day in Iraq, 256,000 children could be covered. And just over one month of the Iraq war would cover the full cost of the bill, insuring more than 10 million children for a whole year, according to figures released by Sen. Ted Kennedy's office.
Sen. Kennedy (Dem., Massachusetts) said, "President Bush and I have one thing in common. When either of us wants to see a doctor, American taxpayers cover 72 percent of our health care premiums. And when it comes time to pick a medical facility, either of us can go to a government-run hospital like the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. ...So I want to know, if government-run health care is good enough for me and is good enough for President Bush, why isn't it good enough for America's children?"
Kennedy said Bush's claim that the program costs too much is "a question of priorities." "...And President Bush's priorities obviously don't include the needs of America's children," he noted. "...Health insurance shouldn't be a luxury for the privileged few. It should be a right for all Americans,especially our children."