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10/16/07 5:55PM By Madeleine M. Kunin
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Commentator Madeleine Kunin has been watching the debate about funding for S-Chip, the national Children's Health Insurance Program, with increasing concern, and a strong sense of deja-vu.  

(KUNIN) I usually resist the temptation to go back to the days when I was governor, but this time, I can't avoid it. When I was governor in the 1980s we started a program to provide health insurance for children too poor to buy private health insurance. We called it Doctor Dynasaur.

It worked so well that in 1997 the federal government created the State Children's Health Insurance Program, s-chip for short.

By 2006 the number of children without health insurance fell by one third as a result of s-chip. The congress voted to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program from 5 to 35 billion dollars. A great idea, except that President Bush made the rare choice to exercise his veto power on this bill.

His main reasons were that this Children's Health Insurance bill would lead us down the road to state sponsored health insurance, that it was too expensive, and that it did not focus exclusively on the poor.

The terrors of socialism have been invoked before regarding Medicaid and Medicare. I remember the dire warnings made by Ronald Regan on a record to be played by doctors' wives, that if these laws were passed we would - quote - "tell our children and our grandchildren how life used to be when men were free."

History has proven otherwise. So have the facts. Medicare is cheaper to administer than private health insurance - a comparison of 2-3% overhead for Medicare, to 17% for private health insurance. Medicare is also more honest. A recent study of the private drug benefit program found wide spread violations and fraud.

Providing more children with health insurance would save money both in the long and short term. With health coverage, children would get preventive care and avoid panicked visits to the emergency room and life long health problems.

Will the congress have the votes to over ride the President's veto, expected this Thursday? The answer should be easy. How could they vote against children? The politics is not. Children do not vote. The elderly succeeded in obtaining drug coverage, a far more expensive, if necessary program. They show up at every election.

This is one vote that should not be about politics. It should be about a basic right for all children in America: a right to grow up to be strong and healthy, regardless of their parents' income, regardless of politics. Today Vermont is the number one state in children's health insurance coverage. It's time for the nation to follow our example.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.
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