Somebody had to do it.
After months of negotiation and countless attempts at compromise, the Bush administration is still refusing to let New York and other states across the country expand their State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP). The president is refusing to back down from destructive new rules his Administration has imposed -- the sole purpose of which are to curb bi-partisan state efforts to insure more of our nation's children.
The reason? As the president himself put it: "I mean, people have access to health care in America. They can just go to the emergency room."
It is this politics of "not my problem" that has led to the health crisis we have today.
The bureaucratic barriers to coverage the Bush administration has imposed are not only fundamentally misguided, but also illegal...
...They conflict with the statute authorizing SCHIP. Moreover, they were issued without the opportunity for public comment, as required by federal law. Accordingly, I have joined Democratic and Republican governors from states across the country to bring a lawsuit challenging these new rules in court.
It didn't have to come to this. There is widespread bipartisan support for expanding SCHIP. Even many members of the president's own party have recognized how out-of-touch he is with the American people, and instead have chosen to support compromise legislation in Congress repealing these arbitrary rules.
Unfortunately, President Bush has repeatedly threatened to veto this bipartisan bill. In justifying his position, his administration has tapped into the politics of fear -- branding the effort as "socialism."
Of course, SCHIP has nothing to do with socialism. The government would be the payer, not the provider of care, and families would have a range of private plans from which to choose. But instead of engaging on the merits, the right wing has pulled out socialism from their parade of horribles in order to frighten the public.
The president has also said that those children who already have insurance will choose to give up their coverage in order to join the program.
If you talk to doctors, health care professionals, and state leaders across the country like I have, they know the President is flat-out wrong.
These are the facts.
In New York, we want to expand coverage to every uninsured child in our state. And even though experience at the state level has shown that few children drop their existing coverage in favor of SCHIP, we have instituted some of the most stringent protections in the country in order to both prevent any potential problem and satisfy the White House.
The Bush administration, however, refuses to compromise and work with us to cover these children.
Ultimately, the president just doesn't get it. There is a health care crisis in this country, but he continues to ignore the problem while vulnerable children without insurance "just go to the emergency room."
We all know the statistics. There are 400,000 uninsured children in New York. There are 8 million uninsured children in the United States.
These staggering figures are intolerable. On both a moral and practical level, we cannot allow this to stand. The president, however, continues to say the status quo is acceptable.
Children should not have to wait until they get sick enough to go the emergency room to receive treatment. Rather, they need preventive and primary care. Ensuring that children with health problems are diagnosed and treated in a timely manner will save money and save lives.
It is imperative that we all come together to reverse the Bush administration's attempt to override the will of Congress, the will of the states, and the needs of our children.
We will continue to defend our nation's kids - even if the President will not.
This morning I gave a speech to Fordham University students. SCHIP was among the topics. A video is available here.
Cross posted at Daily Kos.