Jersey Devils…

It’s astounding that the debate on the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has gotten so polarized, with President Bush campaigning against it. This is a program that has been bipartisan since its beginnings, passing a Republican Congress, including one led by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

The talking points by President Bush and some Republicans legislative suggest that the program has gone well beyond its original intent, covering children above twice the federal poverty level, and parents as well. Even some supporters of expanded SCHIP tell their conservative colleagues that SCHIP reauthorization is a way to reign in states.

The poster child for this bad behavior is New Jersey, and I now I must confess my role. I ran the state health consumer advocacy coalition when working at New Jersey Citizen Action, when we were able to win expansions of coverage for:
* children up to 350% of the federal poverty level (around $60K for a family of 3), and
* their parents as well, up to 200% of the federal poverty level ($34K for a family of 3).

This goes well beyond what most other states have done, including “left-coast” California, which only covers children up to 250% of the poverty level ($43K for a family of 3), and is currently proposing to go up to 300% ($52K for a family of 3) as part of broader health reform. [California did approve but never implemented a parent expansion.]
But it wasn’t just me and the various children’s, consumer, and community groups in support of this conspiracy of New Jersey devils toward “government-run health care for every American,” according the President Bush.

The New Jersey Legislature that approved these changes was a Republican Assembly and a Republican Senate. The Governor was Christie Todd Whitman, a blue-blood Republican that President Bush thought highly enough of that he included her in his Cabinet the next year.

How times have changed.

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