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Public Support for SCHIP High, But May Not Be Enough to Sway Lawmakers


A new survey finds that 70 percent of Americans support a bill in Congress that would add $35 million in new funding to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but some observers say that public support is not strong enough to change the minds of lawmakers who back President Bush's veto of the measure.

NPR reported Oct. 17 that the survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health, and NPR found that 64 percent of those polled supported an override of Bush's veto. The bill would provide healthcare coverage to more American children, but Bush contends that it expands government-paid services to families who could otherwise afford private insurance.

Congress is expected to attempt an override of the veto this week.

In an analysis of the survey results, NPR reported that the findings may not be enough to change the minds of the 15 or so Republicans in the House needed to sustain the override. So far, no GOP opponent of the bill has said he or she would change their vote.

“The majority [of voters surveyed] would vote to overturn the president's veto on this, but enough of a minority wants to stay with the president's position on this that that veto is likely to be sustained,” noted Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Bush's stated concerns about eligibility levels appeared to conform with public opinion; few of those polled, for example, supported expanding SCHIP to families with incomes of $60,000 or more, as some states have proposed. “I think the sense that this program should be restricted to somewhat more-modest income levels is the issue that has resonated most with the general public,” Blendon said.

On the other hand, Bush's contention that SCHIP will lead to socialized medicine rang true with only 40 percent of voters, and even many of those thought that government-run healthcare would be a positive development.

A majority of Republicans questioned by pollsters supported the SCHIP bill, but also said they don't want Congress to override Bush's veto. “In the poll, 54 percent of them actually support expansion of the plan as was being debated. But when you get to overturning the veto, you really have six out of 10 that want to stay with the president, which shows that they think he knows something here they weren't aware of, or that they want to just support his leadership,” Blendon said.

The SCHIP bill also includes a provision calling for parity coverage of addiction and mental illness.

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