The Bush administration is taking advantage the congressional recess to circumvent our legislators' will to expand the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program. By issuing new rules that strictly limit the program to families below 200% of the federal poverty level, while at the same time imposing new guidelines for state by state exemptions, the administration is attempting to put a stake in a program that has broad bi-partisan support in Congress and among state's governors. Even Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) and Tim Pawlenty (MN) are supporters.
But the more sinister aspect of this little bit of Bu$hCo maneuvering is that the new restrictions fall disproportionately on larger, bluer states--those states where the federal poverty level is a woefully inadequate standard. California, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, for example, have all been granted exemptions to extend the program to families making many times the federal poverty level. But the new rules require that states show 95% enrollment of children below the 200% level before they can exercise their exemption, allowing the administration to cut the more populous states off at the knees while protecting the so-called "red states". State health officials have called the 95% standard hard to achieve and impossible to demonstrate.
So, as the election season approaches, expect to hear the Bush administration trumpet how they reigned in a "wasteful" federal program--in their words, "...return(ing) the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children." What they won't mention is that the pain from their changes won't be felt by their own constituents.