Health and Human Services Sec'y Leavitt on Proposed Changes to Kids' Health Program

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 30, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: And this is another FOX News Alert for you.

Happening as we speak, the Senate debating changes to a health care program for America's uninsured kids. But, if some Democrats get their way, the taxpayer-funded program could also include children here illegally.

Reaction now from the president's Health and Human Service's secretary, Mike Leavitt.

Secretary, where is this going right now?

MICHAEL LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Neil, the president is anxious to see the children's health insurance program, known as SCHIP, reauthorized. And he would like to do it so soon, so we can continue to support children who are in low income to have coverage.

What the president objects to is the proposal of some Democrats to use this opportunity to dramatically expand the program to cover children that are in families that make as much as $80,000 a year. He doesn't think that was the original purpose, nor does he think that's good public policy.

CAVUTO: All right. As you know, Secretary, these things get to be sort of P.R. bumper stickers. And one is that the president is against insuring kids. And, so, Democrats are rallying around the notion we're for helping out kids.

How do you counter that perception?

LEAVITT: What the president is for is making certain that every American, including children, in every income have access to an affordable basic insurance policy.

And there's a lot better way to do that than to put them all on public assistance. The best way to do it is to make certain that those who have legitimate needs, those who are poor and disabled, and those who are low income have SCHIP and Medicaid and Medicare, but everybody else has the choice of a series of programs that are available in the private market.

And the states need to organize that, and we need to solve the problems that are keeping the states from being able to accomplish it.

CAVUTO: But, you know, what — what is lost in this argument, Secretary, is something you pointed out at the outset, that, under this plan, illegals or illegals' children, more to the point, would be covered.

And I — I don't think it is a point widely appreciated by the American public, if even known. How do you get that across?

LEAVITT: Well, let's start by telling them today.

What their proposal would do is take a program that's working well — it covers the needs of low-income children, of whom there are still many we need to find and put on the program — and would expand it, not only among those who are not here legally, but it would also begin to define a child as someone who's 25 years of age.

It would begin to — as I mentioned earlier — to allow a family that has two children and makes more than $80,000 a year to get government- supported health insurance, most of whom have health insurance already in the private sector.

CAVUTO: All right.

LEAVITT: This is just a big move from private sector to public sector, and trying to grow government insurance and to get health care run out of Washington.

CAVUTO: All right, Secretary. you have indicated you have a busy 550 days ahead of you. The battle is on.

Thank you, Secretary. Very good seeing you.

LEAVITT: Thank you, Neil.

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