Healthcare

UPDATE: SCHIP Bill to be Voted On Today

The State Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation is expected to be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives today by House Democrats. As of deadline, the full 285-page bill had not yet been given to Republican members. Some minority members on the House Ways & Means Committee had been allowed to read parts of it and are trying to piece together exactly what is in this monster of a bill. The conventional wisdom among Republicans is that it closely mirrors last year’s SCHIP legislation that was vetoed by President George W. Bush.

UPDATE: HUMAN EVENTS received a summary of [HR-2], the SCHIP bill, from Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, when it became available at 5:39 this morning. According to the summary released by Camp this morning, the bill would dilute the focus on America’s poorest of children by opening SCHIP to the children of illegal aliens as the bill eliminates the identity-verification requirements in the current law and severely limits what states can do to attain proof of citizenship. The bill also removes the five-year waiting period legal residents are currently required to wait before enrolling in Medicaid or SCHIP. The bill does not include a cap on income for eligibility which would permit families making more than $80,000 eligible for coverage, whether American citizens or not.

SCHIP was originally intended to assist poor children with their health care requirements. Based on the latest information and language seen by Republicans, the bill would dilute the focus on America’s poorest of children by opening SCHIP up to not only back door funding for the children of illegal aliens but would include adults making less than $80,000 per year, whether an American citizen or not.

Completely separate from finding some magical source of funding for President-elect Barack Obama’s upcoming trillion-dollar spending bill that Democrats are trying to disguise as a “stimulus” package, the massive SCHIP bill will clearly require considerable tax increases. Democrats have left the program underfunded, and passage would require a substantial tax increase.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Republican ranking member on the House Ways & Means Committee, told me in an e-mail, “Shifting the focus away from poor children is bad enough. Playing a shell game with the program’s funding and forcing every American to soon pay higher taxes just adds insult to injury.”

Republican staffers tell HUMAN EVENTS that the extent of the success of a serious effort by some Democrats to further enlarge the scope of the SCHIP program — thereby allowimg them to gain a foothold in their attempt to quickly socialize medicine — remains to be thoroughly assessed when the entire bill is finally made available to all Republican members, hopefully before they’re asked to vote on it today. The bill has been constructed by Democrats behind closed doors with little or no time afforded Republicans to scrutinize the entire bill.

Democrats proposed a 61 percent tax on cigarettes in a disingenuously absurd proposal to cover the enormous cost of the SCHIP program by increasing tobacco taxes. The main problem with this funding source is that smoking has been on the decline for decades. According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, the Democrats would need to recruit 22.4 million new smokers by 2017 to keep funding their Medicaid and SCHIP expansions. And as these funding sources continue to decline, like any government program, SCHIP will continue to grow exponentially. In 2007, SCHIP costs increased by 10 percent and in 2008 costs were up by18 percent.

When the decades-long trend away from smoking combined with the resulting decrease in revenue causes an enormous chasm between program spending and the revenue stream, Democrats will require the American taxpayer to fill that vast funding void. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the working poor are hit hardest by tobacco taxes since 28.8 percent of adults below the poverty level smoke, compared to only 20.3 percent of other adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, other groups disproportionately likely to smoke include: adults with a GED (46%), Native Americans (32%), adults without a high school diploma (27%), all blacks (23%), and young adults ages 18-24 (24%). In contrast, individuals with undergraduate degrees (only 10% of whom smoke) or graduate degrees (7%) would be far less likely to be affected. Given such data, it is hard to imagine a more regressive policy, disproportionately targeting such disadvantaged groups for higher taxes.

Smokers paying an additional 61 cents per pack of cigarettes to finance a SCHIP expansion under the Democrat proposal would cost a working class family with two adult smokers hundreds of dollars per year in additional federal tobacco taxes alone.

President-elect Barack Obama promised that folks making less than $250,000 per year would not see their taxes go up. This legislation most assuredly breaks that promise.

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