Iowa Governor Lobbies for Increased Health Coverage for Kids

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said President Bush will put millions of children at risk if he doesn’t pay heed to Congress and provide more funding to a federal health insurance program.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as SCHIP, provides insurance to more than 6 million children nationwide. In Iowa the program is primarily administered under the hawk-i program, which has enrolled about 22,000 children from low-income families. Another 15,000 Iowan children also receive coverage through SCHIP funding.

Both chambers of Congress have passed legislation with vastly more funding for the program than Bush supports. The president has threatened to veto the measure if Congress doesn’t fall in line with his budget.

“Here’s the bottom line: The president has suggested 5 billion dollars in funding,” Culver said this week. “The U.S. Senate has approved funding it at 35 billion dollars. The House has approved funding it at 50 billion dollars.”

Bush’s figure is “inadequate. It’s not enough,” Culver said.

Speaking inside the air-conditioned Gammon Barn during a sweltering morning at the Iowa State Fair, Culver was flanked by state officials, businesses leaders, a Republican lawmaker and Marci Ruff, a Knoxville woman with two children enrolled in the hawk-i program.

All of the speakers emphasized the importance of SCHIP funding and said it was an effective tool in covering children from poor families.

“This is a quality of life issue,” said Max Phillips, president of Qwest Iowa. “If the quality of life improves in Iowa, that’s more customers for Qwest, more investment in the economy. It’s better for business and the community.”

Culver said the state had been making steady progress by using SCHIP funding on hawk-i to increase the number of children who are covered by health insurance.

There are still about 45,000 uninsured children in Iowa, Culver said, and hawk-i represents the best way to continue reducing that number. If the federal money is removed or reduced, he said, the state will struggle to keep up with the financial commitments the program requires.

Bush has said Congress’ proposals would swell the 10-year-old SCHIP program, take it beyond its original mission and move more people toward government-run health care.

The program is set to expire Sept. 30.