Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania delivered the Democratic radio response to President Bush’s weekly radio radio address. This week Rendell spoke in defense of expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Rendell began by talking about how important the SCHIP program is.

“In the next few days, Congress will consider one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year – the renewal and expansion of the nation’s health insurance program for children called “S-CHIP”. A bipartisan group of congressional leaders has negotiated a compromise that is designed to cover a large portion of the 8.7 million kids in our country who do not have health insurance. This legislation should be passed with strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress,” Rendell said.

Rendell spoke about the administration’s partisan tactics. “In recent days the Administration has tried to turn this into a partisan issue and has threatened to veto. The health of our children is far too important for partisan politics as usual. A veto battle in Washington would expose millions of children to the risk of losing insurance. That’s simply unacceptable. Our leaders have an obligation to enact this bill quickly and the President should sign it immediately.”

He also talked about the social obligation to insure America’s poor children. “In fact, nothing speaks more to our obligations as a society than the need to provide for the health and well being of our children. The nation’s governors have been working to expand health insurance coverage for children in a bipartisan way. Responding to the individual needs of their states, they have crafted programs that stretch public dollars and reach into communities where private insurance companies are not offering affordable coverage.”

Rendell discussed what is going on in his state, and mine, Pennsylvania. “In Pennsylvania, last year we created the “Cover all Kids” program. And now we are providing coverage to 93% of the children in families where the income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level. Last winter, with the approval of the Bush Administration, we expanded our program to cover even more kids.”

Rendell pointed out that the states are getting involved with the problem because the private insurance companies aren’t. “But Pennsylvania is not alone in creating innovative approaches to covering more children. California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Kansas and Connecticut are among the other states leading the way. The Governors of these states are moving on this problem because the private insurance market is not.”

Rendell said that new program rules established by the Bush administration could stifle innovation. “Unfortunately, the Administration last month changed its position and announced new rules for S-CHIP that could halt the efforts of these and other states to cover more kids. If the Administration is serious about solving our health care crisis, it should be expanding, not cutting back this program which has made private health insurance affordable for millions of children. Congress should reverse this latest action when it votes on this new legislation.”

Rendell urged Congress and the president to expand the program. “Congress has been working hard on the legislation to renew the program and make more resources available for it. It has been difficult work to craft a bipartisan plan and to make sure it is paid for. When the nation’s governors met together in July, a bipartisan group of 43 of us joined in a letter to congressional leaders urging them to do just that. Now all Members of Congress and the White House have an opportunity to enact this critical program.”

He concluded by asking people to write or call their members of Congress and the White House. “I hope you will call, write, or e-mail your Members of Congress, your Senators and particularly the White House to let them know now is the time for Congress to pass this legislation and for the President to sign it.”

I am glad that the Democrats stepped up this week and defended the program. It is a good program, that is relatively cheap, and most importantly, it works. President Bush’s twenty percent over the next five years won’t even be enough to cover the increasing cost of health care. If the Bush plan was adopted, some current enrollees would stand to lose their coverage, and the program would not be expanded. I believe that we as a society have an obligation to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves, and giving poor parents an affordable health care option for their children is a no brainer. President Bush is fighting a battle on this issue that he can’t win.

Full text of Rendell radio response

Jason Easley is the politics editor at His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jason is also the host of TPU Radio, which can be heard at every Sunday morning at 11 AM ET  

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