SCHIP's on Table, President Tells Hill; after Vetoing the Children's Health Bill Expansion, Bush Is Open to Compromise

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Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush said yesterday he is willing to spend more money on a children's health care proposal he vetoed last week on the grounds that it was too costly.

It was the president's first public gesture of a possible compromise with the Democrat-controlled Congress on how much to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

"If putting poor children first takes a little more than the 20 percent increase I have proposed in my budget for SCHIP, I am willing to work with leaders in Congress to find the additional money." Mr. Bush said during his weekly radio address.

Congress last month passed a bill that would have allocated an additional $35 billion for the 10-year-old program over the next five years, raising funding to $60 billion.

The measure would have added an estimated 3.8 million children to the 6.6 million currently enrolled in the program.

Mr. Bush has proposed a more modest $5 billion increase.

The president offered no specifics yesterday about how much more money he would be willing to spend. But he continued his overall attacks on the bill, calling it "deeply flawed" and "an incremental step toward [the Democrats'] goal of government-run health care for every American."

"Government-run health care would deprive Americans of the choice and competition that comes from the private market," he said. "It would cause huge increases in government spending."

Mr. Bush said the bill would allow states to seek waivers to extend coverage to families in some high-tax states making up to $83,000 or more annually.

But Democrats say only one state, New York, has asked for a waiver to expand the program to four times the poverty level, which would be about $83,000 in the state for a family of four. The administration rejected the request.

Democrats add that most SCHIP beneficiaries get coverage through private insurers that contract with states. …