Economic Downturn Increases Need for Children’s Health Care Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives today challenged President Bush’s veto of legislation to provide health care for more than 10 million American children, including more than 90,000 children in Massachusetts. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has oversight responsibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and a strong supporter of the program, supported the override which failed by a vote of 260-152.

Rep. Markey said, “It is disheartening that the Bush administration has insisted on standing in the way of a successful program with a proven track record of helping poor, sick American children get the health care they need.”

“Health coverage for all of our nation’s children should be a priority. Worsening economic conditions only reinforce the need to cover children from low-income families, in which parents are forced to choose between health care and necessities like food and shelter. No parent should have to choose between caring for a sick child and putting food on the table.”

The president’s veto on December 12th denied health care to children of hardworking families across America just as the country began experiencing an economic downturn, with families increasingly struggling with the costs of heat, food, gas and health care. Unemployment is growing, and when unemployment increases, so do the number of Americans without health insurance. In this weak economy, more and more American parents are having difficulty finding affordable health insurance for their children. As a result, the CHIP program is more critical than ever.

This is the second CHIP bill the Congress has sent to the president. After President Bush vetoed the first version on October 3rd, it was revised to meet several of the concerns raised by the president in his first veto. The revised bill passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 265 to 142 and passed the Senate by a veto-proof margin of 64 to 30.

“Over the last several months, President Bush has had an opportunity to work with a bipartisan majority of Congress and provide health insurance to over 10 million low-income children. However, he decided instead to place himself on the wrong side of the history of healthcare and play politics with the health of American children,” concluded Rep. Markey.

January 23, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836