In his press conference yesterday, President Bush let loose some whoppers in defending his plan to veto a popular, bipartisan bill that would extend health insurance to 4 million poor kids. Bush claimed that the bill would allow the program (known as SCHIP) to cover too many rich people, i.e., families earning up to $80,000 a year. Not only would this burden the taxpayers, but, he declared, it would lead all those families to (gasp!) drop private insurance in favor of the public program, making the bill “an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.”
Most of this just isn’t true. A recent Urban Institute study found that the vast majority of the families covered under the pending bill have incomes less than $42,000 (for a family of four!). And even kids covered by SCHIP get their actual insurance from private companies that contract with the states, so no socialized medicine there.
That’s why Bush’s veto threat may be pretty irrelevant. Most of his own party is behind expanding the children’s insurance program, including stalwart conservative Utah Republican senator Orrin Hatch, who provided perhaps the best quote of the debate so far. When asked by the Washington Post whether he would vote to override a Bush veto, he replied, “You bet your sweet bippy I will.”