Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Soapbox

Recognizing the Truth, part 2
By Joe Shehan

Lie #2: SCHIP is For Poor Kids!

Much of the contentious debate that surrounds the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIP, or more recently dubbed “SCHIP” is rooted in the claim that SCHIP is for poor children. This claim is true to a point, but it gets lost in the demagoguery of the left, and gets replaced with hyperbole and sensationalism.

Seeing that they would have very little political success with the twelve upcoming appropriations or “spending” bills, the Democrats chose to use children’s healthcare as a political football to batter beaten and bruised Republicans before the rapidly approaching Presidential and Congressional primary season. The evidence for this accusation is found in the process story of the current legislation.

The first SCHIP bill was introduced to the House with out even once going through the committee markup process (which would enabled Republicans to add amendments), and created many fiscal and policy quandaries for the GOP, and thus forcing them to vote against it. Many of the problems surrounded increasing the eligibility to families who make 300% over poverty (Approx. $63,000) with out ensuring that 90% of the children whose families make less than 200% (original eligibility level) are covered. Another problem was the age limit for coverage was increased from 21 years to 25 years of age, essentially making this a program for adults as well as children. These problems, mixed with inadiquate funding modalities forced the GOP to vote against it, the President to veto it, and the Democrats got their twisted political victory.

Next came the second attempt by the Majority to pass , yet again, a “bipartisan” bill that did not include any of the measures the minority clearly stated were deal breakers. The “changes to the bill” were weak efforts to bring compromise to the bill. The Majority did lower the age requirement back to 21, but they allowed adults older than 21 to stay on the program for one year, they slightly removed immigration requirements, but did nothing to provide citizenship verification, and the cigarette tax (which is a regressive tax) was still left in the bill. All of these “compromises” were still not enough, and rightly so, to bring the Republicans to vote for SCHIP.

Now we are faced with the SCHIP reauthorization being returned to the President for another veto, and another sustainment of the veto. So, Democrats and Republicans are now at the negotiating table, and they are working to find middle ground. Yet, after two days they are no where closer to an agreement. So, what about the kids during all this?

Unlike what is being reported and advertised the children covered under the previous CHIP bill are still being covered through Continuing Resolutions (CR). They are not at risk of losing their health coverage, and no one believes that Speaker Pelosi or the Republican leadership will let them be without coverage. So, if we do not have an agreement by the new cut-off date of November 16th, we are all confident that the Majority and Minority will pass another CR to take us into next year. No one wants that to happen, everyone wants to reauthorize the program, unlike Democratic accusations, but ultimately, the GOP wants a bill that covers those who deserve to be covered, and a bill that is able to pay for itself with out increasing the tax burden on anyone.

No comments: