Obama Signs SCHIP

"All right," President Obama said to the assembled jubilant masses in the East Room of the White House today. "Please, everybody have a seat," he told the rejoicing crowd.

"This is good," he said to the group, which fully well knew not all the news from the Obama White House as of late has been good.

"This is good," the president said to cheers and applause.

The president was there to sign the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which his White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel helped create a decade ago, and which President Bush vetoed last year.

By doing so, the new president said, "we fulfill one of the highest responsibilities that we have: to ensure the health and well-being of our nation's children. It's a responsibility that's only grown more urgent as our economic crisis deepens, with health care costs that have exploded, and millions of working families are unable to afford health insurance."

The nation has 8 million uninsured children, part of the more than 45 million uninsured Americans total, the president said.

"It's hard to overstate the toll this takes on families -- the sleepless nights worrying about somebody getting hurt or praying that a sick child gets better on her own," the president said. "The decisions that no parent should ever have to make -- how long to put off that doctor's appointment, whether to fill that prescription, whether to let a child play outside knowing that all it takes is one accident, one injury to send your family into financial ruin."

The president took the time to say that his stimulus package currently being debated in the Senate would also serve the cause of health care.

"If Congress passes this recovery plan," he said, "in just one month we will have done more to modernize our health care system than we've done in the past decade. We'll be on our way to computerizing all of America's medical records, which won't ...just eliminate inefficiencies, won't just save billions of dollars and create tens of thousands of jobs, but it will save lives by reducing deadly medical errors."

The president took another opportunity to assail the "criticisms of this plan that frankly echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place ... I reject these theories. And by the way, so did the American people when they went to the polls, in November, and voted resoundingly for change."

Sitting down to sign the bill with myriad writing implements so different bill sponsors could get one -- "I've been practicing writing with eight pens," the president said, "running out of signature," he added to laughter -- President Obama signed SCHIP into law.

"There you go," he said.

-- jpt

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