Clinton Claims Credit for Child Program
Friday, October 5, 2007; 5:51 PM
NEW YORK -- When she talks about health care reform on the campaign trail, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton points to a multibillion-dollar health insurance program for children as one of her signature accomplishments.
The program, enacted in 1997, has provided $24 billion over 10 years to states to cover more than 6 million children whose families earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance.
While it has enjoyed broad support on Capitol Hill, President Bush this week vetoed legislation that would have vastly expanded the program's reach.
Clinton claims significant credit for helping launch the effort _ formally the state Children's Health Care Insurance Program _ as first lady during her husband's second term. Her new television ads prominently mention it as evidence of her long-term commitment to health care and children.
"She changed the lives of 6 million kids when she championed the bill that gave them health insurance," says one ad. "Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would, and kept standing until 6 million kids had coverage," says another.
Is she justified in claiming so much credit?
After the first lady's effort to enact universal health insurance went down to calamitous defeat in late 1994, she and other White House officials began looking for smaller changes that could win bipartisan support. Republicans had taken control of both the House and Senate that year.
A similar effort was taking place on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Edward Kennedy playing a lead role. One area he and the Clintons explored involved expanding health insurance coverage to children who had none.
On Dec. 9, 1996, senior White House health adviser Chris Jennings sent a memo to the first lady outlining several options _ and recommending ways for her to increase her visibility on the issue.
With his wife's backing, President Clinton announced a plan to expand health coverage to as many as 5 million children in his 1997 State of the Union address.