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Bill Clinton addresses the DNC in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016. Bill Clinton addresses the DNC in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.

Bill Clinton addresses the DNC in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.

By Alan Gathright July 27, 2016
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 27, 2016

Bill Clinton says Hillary Clinton helped 'get done' the Children's Health Insurance Program

Former President Bill Clinton said that after health care reform failed in the 1990s because they couldn’t break a Senate filibuster, Hillary Clinton sought to tackle health care reform piece by piece, including expanding health insurance for children.

"In 1997, Congress passed the Children's Health Insurance Program, still an important part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. It insures more than 8 million kids," Clinton said in his speech at the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. "There are a lot of other things in that bill she got done, piece by piece, pushing that rock up the hill."   

We will fact-check Hillary Clinton’s role in expanding health care for children.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

We have previously rated a few claims related to her role in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. Some claims have been more careful in their wording about her role than others. We could not reach a Bill Clinton spokesman, but we previously interviewed a Hillary Clinton spokesman on the same topic.

The CHIP program provides health care coverage to more than 8 million children, according to Medicaid. Created in 1997, when it was known as the State Children's Health Insurance Program, it promotes health coverage for low-income children by providing federal funding to states.   

The late-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. received much of the credit for CHIP, because he shepherded the legislation through a Republican-controlled Congress. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was the lead Republican cosponsor.

In 2007, Kennedy told the Associated Press that Hillary Clinton played a critical role.

"The children's health program wouldn't be in existence today if we didn't have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue," Kennedy said.

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Nick Littlefield, a senior health adviser to Kennedy at the time, agreed.

"She wasn't a legislator, she didn't write the law, and she wasn't the president, so she didn't make the decisions," Littlefield told the Associated Press. "But we relied on her, worked with her and she was pivotal in encouraging the White House to do it."

Shortly after the legislation passed, the New York Times reported, "Participants in the campaign for the health bill both on and off Capitol Hill said the first lady had played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lining up White House support."

The Washington Post The Fact Checker examined her claim in an ad that she worked with Democrats and Republicans to get the law passed and concluded that was questionable. While she worked behind the scenes on the legislation, the Fact Checker wrote that there was no evidence she worked with members of both parties and instead worked with White House staff and Kennedy’s office -- not Hatch.

"The White House wasn't for it. We really roughed them up" in trying to get it approved over the Clinton administration's objections, Hatch told the Boston Globe in 2008. "She may have done some advocacy (privately) over at the White House, but I'm not aware of it.

Hatch added "I do like her," referring to Hillary Clinton. "We all care about children. But does she deserve credit for SCHIP? No -- Teddy does, but she doesn't."

Our ruling

Bill Clinton said Hillary Clinton sought to expand health care piecemeal including the "Children's Health Insurance Program."

Clinton did work behind the scenes to create the program to offer healthcare to children. He avoided specifying how much credit she should get for that and whether she worked with both parties to make that happen.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

PolitiFact, "Did Hillary Clinton win health care for 8 million children as first lady?" Feb. 17, 2016, "Children's Health Insurance Program", "Affordable health care is a basic human right"

Associated Press, "Clinton Claims Credit for Child Program, " October 5, 2007, "Standing up, but not alone," October 8th, 2007, "Clinton promoted children's health care," January 6, 2008

Washington Post The Fact Checker, "Clinton’s claim of working with Democrats and Republicans to create a child health program," June 20, 2016

Boston Globe, "Clinton role in health program disputed," March 14, 2008

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Children’s Health Coverage: Medicaid, CHIP and the ACA," March 26, 2014

David Nexon, Senator Ted Kennedy’s former health care staff director, on Medium, "I was there when Hillary Clinton helped lead the bipartisan effort to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program," June 24, 2016

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More by Alan Gathright

Bill Clinton says Hillary Clinton helped 'get done' the Children's Health Insurance Program

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