Hatch, Bennett Split on Major Health Bill

Hatch, Bennett Split on Major Health Bill

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sen. Orrin Hatch said President Bush got bad advice Wednesday in vetoing a bill that would significantly expand health insurance for children, but that opinion is not unanimous in the Utah delegation.

Hatch had a major role in Congress' renewal of the program. But his fellow Republican, Sen. Bob Bennett, voted against the bill last week, saying it took SCHIP beyond its original mission and moved "us one step closer to government-run health care."

Bush vetoed the bill.

"Poor kids first," he said. "Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health-care system."

The program is a state-federal effort that subsidizes health coverage for 6.6 million people, mostly children, from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private coverage.

Congress wants to add $35 billion over five years to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

Bennett last week said the bill provided "unintended incentives" for parents to drop private insurance and sign up for the government plan. Hatch hopes to round up enough votes to overturn Bush's veto.

"Some have given the president bad advice on this matter, because I believe that supporting this bipartisan compromise to provide health coverage to low-income children is the morally right thing to do," Hatch said.

In the House, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, voted for the bill while Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon opposed it.

Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, supported the bill and appeared in TV ads in Utah.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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