The American people did their part, banding together behind the bill ? HR 976, the Children's Health In-surance Reauthorization Act of 2007 ? forging broad coalitions, and delivering a clear message that affordable health coverage for nearly 4 million more children is a priority. AARP ? many of whose members are now raising grandchildren ? are among the multitude of groups supporting the bill.
Congress did its part by sending HR 976 to the President's desk for signature.�The bill passed by wide, bipartisan margins in both chambers and offered lawmakers rare common ground on an issue that affects the lives of millions of children.
But the President chose not do his part, opting to veto the legislation for reasons that have been roundly dismissed as baseless by leaders in both parties.� Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the powerful Senate Fin-ance Committee, and a key proponent and author of the bill, suggested that "wholly wrong or intellectually dishonest" arguments had been made against the bill.�
In vetoing the bill, President Bush missed an opportunity to act in the name of the American people.�So, now it is back to Congress.�As lawmakers revisit the bill and take calls from concerned citizens, let us count the ways expanding CHIP serves the public good:
CHIP is a wise use of tax dollars.�The long-term benefits of relatively inexpensive children's health care coverage are substantial.�Healthy kids develop into healthy adults, and that is good for the nation.
CHIP is vital to the growing number of Amer-ican grandparents raising grandchildren, who rely on the program for affordable health care.
CHIP is a public-private partnership in which over three quarters of kids get coverage through private insurers. It has the overwhelming support of the nation's governors ? both Republicans and Demo-crats ? as well as America's Health Insur-ance Plans, which represents private insurers.
The proposed CHIP expansion is financed by a 61-cent increase in the cigarette tax.�Potentially, this will move hundreds of thousands of Americans to either cut back on or quit their smoking habits, there-by improving public health, generally.
Providing health insurance to more children should not be caught up in a rhetorical or ideological debate. Americans are tired of the politics of division and partisanship.�When broad segments of the nation ? and Congress ? can come together in agreement, we should not miss the opportunity to act to move forward.
Choosing children's health care ? access to pediatricians, affordable trips to the dentist, resources to combat childhood obesity, and so much more ? is doing the right thing, period.�AARP thanks Rep. Steph-anie Herseth Sandlin for her commitment to vote to override the President's veto of the Children's Health Insurance Program.