Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson backs President Bush’s decision to veto a bill that would have expanded the number of children covered by government-paid health care. "That’s a classic example of a good idea and a good program that’s working that’s taken to a place that was never envisioned by the originators of the law," Thompson says.
The federal government has been sending money to states, which then are to provide health care coverage to children who do not qualify for government-paid Medicaid, but live in a household with a yearly income below 200 percent of the poverty level.
The state children’s health insurance program has been providing health care coverage to about 6.6 million people, mostly children although some states allowed parents without health care coverage to get insurance through the program. The expansion which President Bush vetoed this morning would have extended coverage to another four million children — largely bankrolled by a $1-per-pack hike in the federal cigarette tax.
"Certainly children’s health care insurance needs to be expanded and it can be done in different ways," Thompson says. "The president himself proposes a way to be done through the tax code."
Thompson, like Bush, says some parents would opt to dump their private insurance in order to get the government-paid coverage for their kids. "People who, you know, would be in the $80,000 – $90,000 family income range — possibly eligible for the alternative-minimum tax which was originally designed to hit rich people — would be eligible to get a check for their children," Thompson says.
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican who backed the deal Bush rejected, has disputed the assertion that people who make that kind of income would be eligible for government-paid health insurance for their kids.
Thompson contends Democrats want to expand the program in order to get Americans used to the idea of a government-run health care system. "The government simply can’t send a check to everybody in this country for insurance. It would drive the private insurance option totally out of business. That would not be a good thing. There would be no competition anymore and it would be a single, government-run system," Thompson says. "…Every solution to every problem is not wholesale government takeover."
Thompson made his comments during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. Thompson is wrapping up a five-day campaign swing in Iowa with a visit this morning to the ethanol plant near Nevada and an event over the noon-hour in Dubuque.