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Seek SCHIP compromise

Congressional Democrats want to play politics over President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Stay tuned for an onslaught of commercials and other paid media about the president imperiling the health of children. The GOP, undoubtedly, will respond with an avalanche of press conferences, talk show appearances and paid advertisements decrying fiscally irresponsible Democrats who are attempting to create government-run health care.

How about channeling that energy into a positive outcome — finding a realistic means to provide insurance coverage for the children of working poor families.

That was the original intent of SCHIP, after all. These are children whose household incomes exceed the financial guidelines for Medicaid. Yet, many have no health-care coverage because of cost or their parents' employers do not provide it. Without access, they may not receive recommended immunizations or undergo well-baby or well-child exams during which health-care providers can detect and treat small problems before they become significant health issues.

Seemingly, there is a lot of room for middle ground on this issue. Congressional Republicans are correct in that Congress has to check its runaway spending. Critics say the program has since moved far beyond its original purpose covering children, thus expansion of SCHIP is tantamount to a financial runaway train.

Backers of the program, among them Sen. Orrin Hatch, one of the original architects of SCHIP, say critics need to get their facts straight. For one, President Bush maintains that SCHIP would provide coverage to children in a family making $83,000 a year. Hatch says the figure is flat wrong.

Some two weeks before a veto overturn vote is conducted, there is already talk of how the states might handle a total cut in funding. Utah has sufficient reserves to carry the program for about six months, state CHIP officials say.

Considering the many pork projects that Congress funds each year, there are plenty of other issues where members of Congress can draw lines in the sand. Members of Congress should not politic whether more children of working poor Americans have access to health care. They should find a way to make it happen and ensure that the funding reaches its intended demographic — children.