Politics & Government

Activists urge override to health insurance veto

A group of health care activists is gathering today to urge Congress to override President Bush's veto of the children's health insurance program.

The coalition of health, business, religious and education leaders fears that thousands of Valley children will be left without health insurance and it will pose a public health concern. The group plans to meet at 1 p.m. at Small World Preschool at Butler Church at Butler and Winery avenues in southeast Fresno.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, offers low-cost health coverage to about 6.6 million children nationwide, including more than 53,000 Valley children.

They are children whose families can't afford private health insurance but earn too much for Medi-Cal, the state-federal insurance program for the poor. A family of four can earn up to $52,000 a year and still qualify for the insurance, called Healthy Families.

Bush vetoed a bill Oct. 3 that would give the nationwide program $60 billion, an increase of $35 billion for the next five years.

Congress is expected to vote Thursday on a possible override.

"You will have children having diseases and illnesses that are not diagnosed. ... If people don't have money to pay for health insurance, they avoid going to the doctor," said Norma Forbes, director of Fresno Health Communities Access Partners, a nonprofit group of health care leaders.

The Rev. Walt Parry, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministries, called Bush's veto "immoral" and said he hopes Congress votes to override it.

But some Valley members of Congress support the veto, saying that the bill should be pared back to reduce the cost.

"When Republicans created the SCHIP program in 1997, we produced a program that provided low-income children with quality health care, while not forcing those with private insurance into a government-run health plan as the recently vetoed plan proposes," Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, said in a statement.

But Forbes said more money is needed because of increasing poverty and rising medical costs.