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Health Benefits for Children Should not come at the Expense of our Seniors

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HEALTH BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN SHOULD NOT COME AT THE EXPENSE OF OUR SENIORS

Recently we celebrated the forty-second anniversary of the enactment of Medicare, the nation's health insurance program for senior citizens and disabled Americans. Ironically, on this anniversary the new House majority took the opportunity to bring legislation to the House floor which makes drastic cuts to this vital program.

The so-called "CHAMP" Act, which was intended to reauthorize a program created in 1997 to provide healthcare to low-income, uninsured children, takes the first steps towards pushing all Americans into government-run health care. House Democrats intend to pay for this massive expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by making substantial cuts to Medicare Advantage, a program that accounts for 20 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.

This irresponsible legislation cuts Medicare by more than $200 billion over the next ten years. In addition to slashing Medicare Advantage, leaving 22 states and the District of Columbia without a single beneficiary enrolled in this important program, the "CHAMP" Act cuts over $11 billion in payments to acute care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and long-term care hospitals at a time when many hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open. The legislation also cuts over $7 billion to home health agencies, endangering senior's access to home care, particularly in rural areas and cuts $6.5 billion to skilled nursing facilities, threatening nursing homes' ability to provide adequate care to seniors. Finally, the legislation includes a 43 percent cut to patients who rent life-saving oxygen equipment.

Furthermore, the "CHAMP" Act, which includes large tax increases and even includes a new tax on private health plan policies, creates incentives for families to drop their private insurance coverage and force the taxpayers to foot the bill. The legislation expands the original SCHIP program in some states by providing coverage to children whose families have an annual income up to $82,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over 2 million children currently covered by private insurance plans would now rely on an inefficient government-run health care system.

Not only does this legislation raise taxes on hard working Americans and dramatically cut Medicare benefits to our seniors, but the "CHAMP" Act removes previously enacted reforms which require states to verify lawful presence in the U.S. before approving a benefit under Medicaid. This important provision has done much to decrease taxpayer dollars funding health care for illegal immigrants but its repeal paves the way for illegal immigrants to access government benefits.

When Congress first created SCHIP there was no question that this new program was intended to help low-income, uninsured children. Unfortunately, those same principles are not evident in the "CHAMP" Act, which passed the House two weeks ago without my support. By pitting children against seniors, the "CHAMP" Act will jeopardize seniors' access to the high-quality care that they expect from Medicare and force individuals who already have private health insurance into a one-size-fits-all government-run health care program.


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