Help Save a Sinking SCHIP


I pay attention when the Gospels show Jesus' anger. In addition to a few confrontations with religious hardliners, there are only a few other notable episodes.

When Peter's suggests that Jesus would not endure any hardships, Jesus rebukes him with, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Mt 16:23, Mk 8:33). When the money changers are using the temple for vain profit, Jesus literally overturns their business strategy with an uncharacteristic display of forceful intervention (Mt 21:12, Mk 11:15, Jn 2:14-15).

And when the children are denied access to the Savior, Jesus again flips the social convention upside down, placing a child on his lap and suggesting that all of us are in need of fixing except these little ones who alone possess the secret to entering the kingdom (Mk 10:14).

Misplaced priorities get Jesus' attention. So I wonder how Jesus views the recent veto from President Bush last Oct. 3 to deny expansion of SCHIP, a Social Security allowance called the Children's Health Insurance Program?

This bill would help provide coverage for children whose families earned too much to apply to Medicaid but not enough to afford their own health insurance, affecting 3-4 million children nationally.

The cost, estimated at $35 billions dollars over five years, is significant, but it pales in comparison to the $600 billion price tag currently associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A study by the RAND Corporation found that children who had participated in SCHIP, begun in 1997, "received needed health care services more frequently and also reported quality-of-life improvements, such as doing better in school, feeling better physically and getting along better with peers."

Why would President Bush veto such legislation? I think Froma Harrop is correct in highlighting the error in the president's logic of resisting federalized support for children when he also supported the Medicare prescription drug benefit (at a price tag of $720 billion over 10 years) that expands taxpayer-subsidized health care to retirees earning 2,000 times the poverty rate. She writes, the Bush administration "can't support a government program that doesn't also enrich private interests."

Meanwhile, children are the ones who become the most vulnerable. As expected, Kentucky Republican Senators McConnell and Bunning voted against reauthorization of the SCHIP program. Democrat Congressman Chandler voted for it expansion. Now, it's up to Congress to override the veto.

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics notices: "Baptists in the South hold one of the keys to overriding President Bush's veto. There are 20 or so Baptists congressmen in the South who voted against this bill. They must be persuaded by people of faith to do the right thing, to vote for rather than against children."

A petition that I had signed is still available at Sojourners that has asked for the president's support.

Signing it now, may encourage a new effort to place this issue back before our government. Of course, contacting our representatives and senators is always significant.

Taking care of children is a Jesus-type priority. The alternative has something to do with millstones and rivers. I hope we have not already sunk so low.

Mark Johnson is senior minister at Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

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Tags: Children, Healthcare, Mark Johnson, Politics