State officials say if President Bush follows through on his threat to veto a bill that deals with the federal program providing health care to poor children, some of the Iowa children who’re already on the program may have to be kicked out or their benefits may be cut.
Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, helped craft the bill Bush has vowed to veto. "We’re a much better country — our kids are healthier, our families are better, our economy’s stronger — if these kids get good, preventative care…when they’re young," Harkin says.
Nine Republican presidential candidates participating in Sundays debate criticized the program, saying it was part of Democrats’ plan to install "socialized medicine" in America. Harkin says that’s "nonsense."
"Don’t be ridiculous. These are people right above the cut-off line for Medicaid. They don’t have the time, the expertise or the money to buy private health insurance for their kids," Harkin says. "This is really a moral question. Are we going to cover our kids with health insurance and actually cover some more who need health insurance, or are we going to follow President Bush’s lead and cut kids off of the HAWK-I program here in Iowa, for example?"
The state’s Health and Well Kids in Iowa program — dubbed HAWK-I — provides goverment-paid health care coverage to kids whose parents aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but aren’t well-off enough to afford to buy private insurance.
Republican critics of the bill Harkin touts suggest the bill will actually prompt some parents to drop the private insurance they’ve gotten for their kids, and let the government coverage kick in. Another flash point for Republicans is the providing in the bill tha twould let families in high-rent districts earn up to $60,000 a year and still qualify for the government-paid health care coverage for their kids.
Harkin defends that part of the plan, too. "You’ve got poor families living in Manhattan. You’ve got poor families living in Newark, New Jersey. You’ve got poor families living in Los Angeles, California," Harkin says. "These just happen to be more expensive places to live."
The income guidelines for eligible Iowa families is lower — at $40,000 a year for a family of four.