KOAA reported Bush's threat to veto SCHIP bill, omitted assessment that his proposal underfunds health insurance program

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Reporting President Bush's threatened veto of legislation that increases funding for a health insurance plan for poor children, Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA News First on September 25 noted that "Bush believes the program's too big and too costly for Americans." But the report did not mention that Bush's alternative proposal to the five-year, $35 billion increase would leave the program with a $9 billion shortfall over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

On the September 25 broadcast of Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA's News First Today at 5 a.m., anchor Adam Atchison reported that President Bush stated he plans to veto a congressional proposal to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) because "Bush believes the program's too big and too costly for Americans." The report included a video clip of Bush saying that he would veto the bill because it "is a step toward federalization of health care" and goes "beyond the scope of the [SCHIP] program." However, News First failed to mention that Bush's alternative plan -- a $5 billion expansion over five years -- would, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), underfund the program by $9 billion during that period, as Media Matters for America has noted. Additionally, News First did not provide a response to Bush's criticism of the congressional plan, which would increase funding by $35 billion over a five-year period.

From the September 25 broadcast of KOAA's News First Today:

ATCHISON: The health insurance of the nation's poorest children is at stake on Capitol Hill today. House lawmakers would like to expand the State Children's Health Program, or SCHIP, as it's called. It's set to expire on Sunday. The money would come from tobacco taxes that include an increase in the federal cigarette tax to a dollar a pack. President Bush believes the program's too big and too costly for Americans.

BUSH [video clip]: I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care. I know that their proposal is beyond the scope of the program. And that's why I'm going to veto the bill.

ATCHISON: The measure would extend coverage to over 10 million children of low-income families. A veto could force Congress to pass an emergency expansion of the SCHIP.

However, News First failed to report that Bush's SCHIP proposal would sharply underfund the program, according to the CBO. As Media Matters noted, per the funding levels set in the original SCHIP legislation, the program cost the federal government $5 billion in 2007. If this baseline level were preserved over the next five years, to 2012, SCHIP would receive $25 billion. In his fiscal year 2008 budget request released in February, Bush sought an increase of $5 billion over this period, for a total of $30 billion in funding. In May, the CBO estimated that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period" -- meaning Bush's proposal would leave the program with a $9 billion shortfall over those five years.

When the Senate announced a bipartisan proposal in July to increase SCHIP funding by $35 billion over this five-year period, Bush threatened to veto such a plan. The House of Representatives subsequently passed a similar proposal and, on September 18, The Washington Post reported that "[k]ey lawmakers in the House and Senate negotiated into the night yesterday on a deal that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over the next five years." In a September 20 press conference, Bush threatened to veto the proposal.

Media Matters has further noted that in addition to threatening to veto the bill that would substantially increase federal funding for SCHIP, Bush has proposed changes to the program that would impose "thresholds that are impossible to meet for nearly every state and impose a one-size-fits-all solution to a dynamic and complex problem," according to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In an August 29 letter to Bush, Spitzer and Schwarzenegger further wrote, "The recently proposed SCHIP rules will reverse longstanding agreements with the states and reduce the number of children who receive health care. We strongly urge you to reconsider these recent policy changes, which simply diminish state flexibility." [emphasis in original]

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