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WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer made the following statement tonight on the House Floor on the CHAMP Act, legislation to reauthorize the SCHIP program and to provide health insurance to 11 million children who today are eligible for coverage under the program:
"Mr. Speaker, I said on this Floor last night that we would have a robust debate on this important legislation – the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection (or “CHAMP”) Act. And today, we have had such a debate.
"While we may disagree on elements of this bill, I believe virtually all of us agree that it is unacceptable and indeed immoral that millions of children in the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth do not have health insurance.
"This historic legislation addresses this national disgrace, building upon the successes of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – which received strong bipartisan support in the Republican-led Congress in 1997 and which was signed into law by a Democratic president.
"Under this bill, 11 million American children – 6 million who currently are covered under SCHIP, and an additional 5 million who currently lack health insurance – will have access to quality, affordable health insurance.
"Let us be clear: Contrary to the claims of some – including, sadly, President Bush – this legislation does not expand the SCHIP program. Instead, this legislation simply provides the resources needed to enroll children who are eligible under the law but who are not currently enrolled.
"Let me reiterate: The CHAMP Act maintains current law regarding eligibility for SCHIP.
"Furthermore, this legislation ensures seniors access to the doctors of their choice by stopping a scheduled 10-percent payment cut to doctors. It phases out over-payments to private plans – over-payments that, on average, are 12 percent more than traditional Medicare. And, in so doing, the bill would extend Medicare’s solvency by three years, while protecting seniors and people with disabilities from having to pay higher monthly premiums.
"In addition, this bill improves Medicare by, among other things, providing new preventive benefits.
"Now, I must note, Mr. Speaker, that nearly three years ago – in the middle of a presidential campaign – President Bush said the following: “America’s children must have a healthy start in life. . . . In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs.” But now, a mere 36 months later, the president is threatening to veto legislation that does precisely that.
"Mr. Speaker, contrary to the claims of the president and other opponents of this bill, it does not constitute a “government takeover of health care.” In fact, three-fourths of the children in the SCHIOP program receive care today through private insurance plans that contract with the states.
"Nor is this bill fiscally irresponsible – a curious claim coming from the president and Congressional Republicans whose policies added more than $3 trillion to the national debt. In fact, the Democratic Majority has taken pains to pay for this legislation and abide by pay-as-you-go budget rules.
"Mr. Speaker, in the final analysis, the question before the members of this body really is this: Do you support reauthorizing this critical program and providing health insurance to eligible children – or not?
"I urge my colleagues: Vote to provide health care for our children. Vote to improve and protect Medicare. Vote for this CHAMP Act."