Rep. Pitts Calls for Putting Children First
New' SCHIP bill still doesn't prioritize insuring poor children
Washington- Today, Congress passed H.R. 3963, a bill to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Congressman Joe Pitts (PA-16) opposed the legislation because it prioritizes healthcare for adults, middle income children, and illegal aliens over providing healthcare to low-income children presently not enrolled in the program. Representative Pitts is a cosponsor of two pieces of legislation that will extend the program and ensure children have health insurance coverage, H.R. 3176 and H.R. 3584.
Congressman Pitts' statement follows:
"Once again, the Democrats have failed to put poor kids first. I will not vote to expand government run healthcare to adults and illegal aliens while we fail to extend healthcare coverage to the children of the working poor.
"I continue to look for legislation that will renew the SCHIP program I first supported in 1997, a program to provide healthcare for low-income children. Instead, the majority continues to meet behind closed doors in the middle of the night in order to produce flawed legislation."
SCHIP was created in 1997 with bipartisan support. The program was originally meant to cover children whose parents made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough money to afford private health insurance. Through the program, the Federal Government provides funds for the states to administer their own individual programs. Each state can administer the program as it sees fit within the guidelines laid out by Congress.
Highlights of the flaws in the legislation follow:
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that only 800,000 children that are currently eligible for the program, but not enrolled, will sign up for SCHIP by 2012 under this bill. In contrast, CBO says that 1.1 million people with incomes too high to be eligible for SCHIP today will be enrolled by 2012 due to the "expansion of SCHIP and Medicaid eligibility to new populations" caused by H.R. 3963.
CBO still projects that up to 10 percent of the enrollees in SCHIP will be adults in 2012.
CBO estimates that this bill will enroll 2 million children under government run healthcare that currently have private health insurance.
H.R. 3963 covers 400,000 less kids in SCHIP than H.R. 976 (the previous SCHIP bill considered in the House) and yet spends $500 million more than H.R. 976.
The bill dramatically lowers funding for the program in the fifth of the ten years covered in the bill. In the fifth year, funding drops by 84 percent, from $13.75 billion in the first six months to $1.15 billion. This is a budget gimmick to make the bill appear to comply with the Democratic majority's own rules. This gimmick will force Congress to either drop millions of children from the program, or to spend hundreds of millions of dollars beyond what is already a huge spending increase.
H.R. 3936 was not seen by Republican Members and staff until 7:00 pm on Wednesday, October 24. Debate on the bill began on the House floor at 11:30 am Thursday, October 25, and consideration was completed with a vote on final passage at 4:45 pm. This process broke Speaker Nancy Pelosi's own vision for the procedures of the House as outlined on her website where it reads: "Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bill and conference report text prior to floor consideration."