SCHIP: Expanding Entitlements, Cutting Medicare
Congressman Roskam Op-Ed
Washington, Aug 17 - Recently, Congress was charged with crafting the future of health care of millions of Americans, a decision that will affect families and children, Medicare beneficiaries, and taxpayers alike. A decision Congress should not have taken lightly.
The Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP), which recently passed the House of Representatives 225-204, reauthorized and drastically expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Although SCHIP is an important program which provides access to quality, affordable health care for uninsured children who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid, I could not support the reauthorization in its current form.
The exorbitant expansion of SCHIP puts America on a path towards greater entitlement spending, undermines private health coverage while reducing benefits of Medicare, all at the expense of the American taxpayer.
As your Congressman, I am committed to finding solutions to our nation's health care challenges. Sadly, in a misguided attempt to restructure SCHIP, the Democratic majority championed legislation that requires taking over $157 billion dollars from seniors and the Medicare program in order to pay for new and unnecessary programs. This legislation massively expands the U.S.'s already defunct entitlement system and opens the door for a national, government-run socialized health care system.
The CHAMP Act sounds like a great idea, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Specifically, there are four major components of this act that I oppose.
First, provisions of this legislation allow states to cover a family of four making over $80,000. This unprecedented expansion of national welfare allows families who currently are covered under private insurance plans to receive taxpayer subsidized health care under a program designed to serve low-income children. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 2.1 million children currently covered by private insurance plans would now rely on an inefficient government-run health care system. This is compounded by a May 2007 CBO report that found up to 50 of 100 children enrolled in SCHIP previously had private insurance. Health spending is already one of the largest spending areas in the federal government, costing almost $700 billion in 2006 alone. Undercutting private insurance will only increase this spending.
Secondly, this legislation will do nothing to change the disturbing trend of covering adults as "children" started by Illinois. To date, over 45% of all Illinois SCHIP beneficiaries are adults. Current provisions cover individuals up to 25 years of age as "children" under the definition in this act.
Also, provisions in this new legislation repeal the legal requirement to verify citizenship status when determining eligibility for benefits. This essentially grants states the discretion of doling out federal benefits to illegal aliens at will. When SCHIP was created in 1997 states were required to verify citizenship. The removal of this essential requirement effectively condones the provision of taxpayer subsidized health care to illegal immigrants.
Finally, this legislation cuts $157 billion in benefits from a broad range of Medicare programs including funding for seniors' hospital, nursing home, and home health agency costs. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, cuts in Medicare spending will directly affect 3,823 seniors in Illinois' 6th District who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Program. Seniors, who often live on a fixed income, rely on these essential programs and should not have their benefits cut for illegal immigrants or families with incomes up to 400 percent above the federal poverty level. While ensuring access to health care for all legal citizens is crucial, I believe we can do better.
On the local level, I am taking important steps to address the availability of health care to Sixth District residents. On July 7, 2007, I was pleased to join representatives of the ACCESS Community Health Network in presenting plans to open a new clinic in Addison, Illinois to serve low income residents' health care needs. With my help, ACCESS was able to obtain a federal grant for $650,000 to assist with this project.
Efforts to reauthorize SCHIP should have restored the bill to its original intent; to provide access to quality, affordable health care for uninsured children not qualified for Medicaid. I am committed to working in a bipartisan fashion to ensure quality, competition, and cost remains a part of the broader proposal of expanding access to health care.