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Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, let me say to the Acting President pro tempore that it is a shame she has to be in the chair every time I give a speech, hearing the same things twice.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. I am enjoying that, I say to the Senator.
Mr. GRASSLEY. I shouldn't have put the new Senator in that position, but I thought a little bit of humor around here doesn't hurt anything, does it?
I thank the Senator from Montana, the chairman of the committee, for his remarks. Obviously, from what I stated yesterday, I have a difference of opinion on that issue. I am not going to speak about that because I spoke about it yesterday.
Madam President, I would like to speak generally about the SCHIP bill, not about a specific amendment at this point, although I might mention some differences we have with the original bill.
I have been a Member of the Senate now for quite a few years. I have worked across the aisle on many initiatives in my time in the Senate. We have worked together--we meaning Democrats and Republicans, and in my case as an individual, the Senator from Iowa--and I am speaking about a close working relationship I have with the Senator from Montana, the chairman of the committee now. We have worked together on major tax, trade, and health care legislation over the last few years where we were able to set aside partisanship and work together to make good policy. I know what it means to make a compromise. I know what it means to keep that compromise.
In 2007, I worked with my friend Senator Baucus, as well as Senator Hatch, a Republican, and Senator Rockefeller, a Democrat, to pass the reauthorization to the Children's Health Insurance Program. We twice passed a bill in the Senate with wide bipartisan margins. Was it a bill Senator Hatch and I as Republicans would have written? No. Was it a bill Senator Baucus and Senator Rockefeller would have written if they were writing the bill all by themselves? No. The bill was a compromise, so everybody gives a little bit. We compromised to get a bipartisan vote, and we were successful in getting that bipartisan vote. We won a veto-proof majority in the Senate. We came just a few votes close of a veto-proof majority in the House. In fact, Senator Baucus and I worked with House Republicans to try to get a few more House Republicans to come around so we could have a bill on the books in 2007 or early 2008. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. Unfortunately, at the time, President Bush refused to sign the bill. I thought he was wrong to veto the bill. I still think he was wrong to veto it. I said so loudly and clearly.
I would like to refer to some comments I made 2 years ago to the Senate at that particular time. I don't have the exact date, but it was during the debate on the SCHIP bill at that particular time, and I would quote from that debate. This is the Senator from Iowa saying this 2 years ago:
First, the President himself made a commitment to covering more children. I wish to refer to the Republican National Committee in New York City in 2004, and President Bush was very firm in making a point on covering children. Let me tell you what he said.
This is the quote I read from President Bush at that time, and he refers to a new term, meaning the term that would start in 2005.
American children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs. We will also not allow a lack of attention or information to stand between these children and health care that they need.
Now, that is the end of the quote from President Bush in 2004. And, Madam President, when I referred to the Republican National Committee in that quote, I think I made a mistake 2 years ago. I was referring to the convention and I said committee.
At that time during the debate in 2007, I went on to say:
That was back in New York City, early September 2004. Three months later the President is reelected, with a mandate. It seems to me the President was very clear in his convictions then. Let me repeat his words because I think they are important. He said he would lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children in government health insurance programs.
Then I go on to speak for myself:
President Bush, this is your friend Chuck Grassley helping you to keep the promise you made in New York City, and helping you keep your mandate that you had as a result of the last election. But somewhere the priorities of this administration seem to have shifted. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the proposal for SCHIP included in the President's fiscal year 2008 budget would result in the loss of coverage, not an increase of coverage as the administration had been advocating for in the year 2004; and that the loss of coverage would add up to 1.4 million children and pregnant women.
That is the end of my speech for that day to the Senate. But I want to say that later in the debate, I referred to this again. So I was trying to make very clear that I was speaking to the President of the United States. This is quoting me:
I quoted the President making a promise at the Republican Convention in New York. I did that yesterday. I want to state again what the President said. You can't say it too many times. I hope at some time the President remembers what he said.
And this is the President from the Republican Convention:
We will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance program.
That is the end of the President's quote, but continuing to quote from myself.
An extension of law, which is what is going to happen if the President vetoes this bill, will not carry out what the President said at the Republican Convention in New York in 2004. Faced with that, your answer today on this bill, Mr. President of the United States, should be yes. This bill gets the job done that you said in New York City you wanted to do. I hope the President's answer will be yes because if he doesn't veto this bill, then we will do those things he said he wanted to do. It will help more than 3 million low-income, uninsured children. About half of the new money is just to keep the program running. The rest of the new money goes to cover more low-income children.
Before I go on with my remarks, I want to say that I think I and a lot of other Republicans who voted for that SCHIP bill in 2007 were vindicated when we made the point that, at $5 billion the President didn't have enough money in his budget to cover kids currently enrolled in SCHIP because the next year, the President's budget for SCHIP was $20 billion. We kept saying to President Bush in 2007, you know, $5 billion isn't going to do it. But I think that by putting $20 billion in for FY 2008, the President was admitting that $5 billion wasn't enough.
Now, why do I go to the trouble of explaining to the Senators who are listening what I said 2 years ago? Because we had a Republican President.
I don't like the way this bill has worked out because the bill we have before us today departs so much from that bipartisan compromise on which so many of us worked so hard. So maybe people listening are saying: Well, Chuck Grassley, a Republican, we have a Democratic President, he is my President, but I am going to just be partisan. So I want the public to know that I am approaching this issue in a way where when I disagree with the policy--whether it is the policy of the Bush administration at that time, or the policy of the partisan bill we have before us now that I will speak out.
We have a President today who is going to sign this bill. Unfortunately, we are here with a bill that goes back on those compromises we worked so hard on 2 years ago. For reasons I still don't fully understand, the majority is bound and determined to set aside that hard work that led to that bipartisan agreement 2 years ago. They have decided that going back on critical compromises is more important than achieving the same bipartisan votes as we did in 2007. The Senate should now be considering our second bill, our final compromise of 2007.
I am disappointed because the State Children's Health Insurance Program is the product of a Republican-led Congress in 1997, signed into law by a Democratic President. This has been a very bipartisan issue for 11 years down the road. It is a targeted program designed to provide affordable health coverage for low-income children of working families. These families make too much to qualify for Medicaid but struggle to afford private insurance.
In 2007, Senator Rockefeller made the point that, ``CHIP,'' the Children's Health Insurance Program, ``legislation has a history of bipartisanship. I am quite proud of it.'' That is what Senator Rockefeller said. In 2009, however, the Democratic leadership, having increased their majority, has decided to abandon a number of good-faith agreements made between Members during the last Congress. In doing so, the Democratic majority has embarked on a reckless course of action designed to alienate the very Republicans who stood up to President Bush when he vetoed the SCHIP bills and who still carry the scars from those fights. It is very disappointing, then, that the first health bill the new Democratic Congress sends to the new Democratic President, my President, is legislation that breaks from that bipartisan tradition.
I want my colleagues to understand that I am very reluctantly in a position of having to fight against this bill.
After the bruising battles over SCHIP in 2007, and with the emergence of health reform as a priority for the 111th Congress, I wanted to avoid another fight over the Children's Health Insurance Program and direct all efforts to enacting a broadly bipartisan health reform bill, which I still think is a possibility. At least the meetings we are having lead me to say that at this point. Maybe 6 months from now I will be disappointed, but I hope not.
However, the Democratic majority was determined on this bill that they wanted a short-term ``win'' over a broader, larger effort, and therefore I was told SCHIP was going to be one of the first bills considered by the new Congress.
I was informed that rather than move forward with the second vetoed bill--a bill with changes that Speaker Pelosi called, and this quote is about that compromise of 2 years ago, which she said was ``a definite improvement on the [first] bill''--the Democratic leadership had decided to move ahead with the first vetoed bill instead of this compromise that Speaker Pelosi said was better than the first bill.
Even though I could have insisted on negotiating off the second bill which represented a number of improvements, as Speaker Pelosi said, and I believed it strengthened the bill, I agreed to try to work out a compromise somewhere between that first vetoed bill and the second vetoed bill of 2007. Unbelievably, under pressure from Democratic leadership, my willingness to work out a compromise that could have set us on a bipartisan pathway was met with a resounding: Thanks, but no thanks. No negotiations, no give and take, no compromises, no bipartisanship: Take it or leave it.
The Senate has abandoned moving forward with a bill that generated a great deal of Democratic praise just 2 years ago. The hard work and bipartisan cooperation that went into the children's health insurance bills in 2007 produced legislation that President Obama's new Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, who was a Member of the House of Representatives at that time, said ``should have strong support from both Democrats and Republicans.'' That is from 2 years ago.
However, on a number of key issues, the other side does not even want to support the first children's health insurance bill of 2007.
The bill before the Senate now completely eliminates policies on crowdout of private insurance that were in both vetoed bills, which brings me to a question: What exactly was wrong with the crowdout policy of both of those vetoed bills? The Congressional Budget Office, in a 2007 report on crowdout, estimated that the Children's Health Insurance Program has a crowdout rate of ``between a quarter and a half of the increase in public coverage resulting from the Children's Health Insurance Program.''
The Congressional Budget Office goes on to elaborate that ``for every 100 children who enroll as a result of SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.''
I would be very interested in learning the reasons those on that side of the aisle completely eliminated the crowdout provisions from both of the 2007 SCHIP bills. Certainly, it is not because Democrats have put forward a policy that addressed crowdout in a better or more efficient manner in the bill before the Senate now. Certainly, it is not because Democrats have a new analysis that crowdout is no longer occurring, as CBO says, especially in the expansion of public programs.
I hope Members of this body who supported the crowdout policy of 2007 and now are supporting its elimination will come to the floor and explain to me and other Members of this body why the Democratic majority is not concerned about the problem of replacing private coverage with public coverage.
In other words, if people have insurance today, and you are setting up a program that, even though it increases the number of people covered will not cover all the children eligible for public programs, why would you want to drive people out of private coverage into public coverage? That is what happens, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Congressional Budget Office is a nonpartisan group of people who are experts in this area.
As I said yesterday, I believe it was, in a comment directed to something Senator Durbin of Illinois said--and I am not denigrating what he said, I am supplementing what he said--he led us to believe the reason you want to have this policy is because there might be some people who have poor private coverage who would be better off in the public program. I am not saying that might not be true. But the Congressional Budget Office tells us you get most crowding out in upper middle-income people, more than you do in lower income people. In other words, maybe people who can afford it better and have higher incomes decide: Why should I pay out of my pocket when I can go on the public program?
I think it is wrong to throw aside something that we had in 2007 that was going to keep people in private coverage and encourage them to go where we do not have enough money to cover children who do not have anything.
Neither bill vetoed by President Bush in 2007 included a provision to allow States to be reimbursed at the Medicaid and SCHIP levels for legal immigrant children and pregnant women. I am not going to go into this issue in depth because I did that yesterday. But this issue does open a difficult and contentious immigration issue that does need to be brought up.
One of the reasons I was able to support the compromise of 2007 on the Children's Health Insurance Program was it did not contain the controversial provisions to direct Federal resources to the coverage of legal immigrants. I said yesterday how in some instances it could end up covering people who have come here illegally.
In the 1996 welfare reform bill, we required the sponsors of legal immigrants to sign an affidavit that they would provide for those immigrants for the first 5 years they were in the country. With this bill we are allowing sponsors to go back on that commitment. If you have a contractual relationship, it seems to me to be only morally right that the Federal Government would want to have that moral contract--not encourage ditching it. But this bill would allow that to happen. We are allowing sponsors to go back on that commitment they made to the taxpayers of this country.
Additionally, the $1.3 billion the bill provides for these immigrants who were promised they would be taken care of is money that could be far better spent on poor, uninsured American children. It is a little bit the same argument I just gave about crowdout.
If you have people on private insurance, then save the public money for people who are currently eligible for public programs, but who are not insured. Use the $1.3 billion for those people.
In 2007, during the debate, the majority leader, Mr. Reid, said this about the Children's Health Insurance Program. It was ``a very difficult but rewarding process for me. It indicates to me that there is an ability of this Congress to work on a bipartisan, bicameral basis.''
You have an election in between, but it seems to me, kind of, comity would dictate if that was a good statement to make in 2007, it would hold true for 2009 as well. This should have been an easy and quick bill to pick up and pass this year. Our bipartisan coalition fought side by side to get the Children's Health Insurance Program done in 2007. Picking up that baton and carrying it across the finish line should have been a straightforward exercise. For somebody like me in the Republican Party who went against his own caucus to get a bipartisan agreement, to stand against my own President and work hard in the House of Representatives to get a few more Republican votes, it kind of leaves us dangling out there. Without a show of appreciation, how can you work in a bipartisan way?
Instead, what are we headed toward? A process that will end up with a bill
that many Republicans, like this Senator, who have been strong supporters of the Children's Health Insurance Program are no longer comfortable supporting.
In 2007, the Children's Health Insurance Program received high praise from the other side. I would like to give a quote, ``a very difficult but rewarding process,'' and one that indicated--showed the ability of Congress, quoting again ``to work on a bipartisan, bicameral basis.''
If the Senator from Montana--I am going to smile at you. That is your quote from 2 years ago.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The time of the Senator has expired.
Mr. GRASSLEY. I have three sentences, if I can have unanimous consent for those?
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRASSLEY. This is a very unfortunate beginning for the 111th Congress. I regret the Democratic leadership has so quickly abandoned a bipartisan process. It does not bode well for cooperative work in the coming months.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I support the amendment offered by Senator Roberts. I would like to say a few things about it at this point.
The Roberts amendment would focus the Children's Health Insurance Program back to the original purpose of the program, which is coverage of low-income children. This amendment eliminates the earmarks in the bill which make it easier for States to cover children from families with incomes above 400 percent of poverty.
The amendment sets an actual threshold on a State's ability to expand SCHIP at higher income levels. It does this by capping eligibility for taxpayer-subsidized health coverage in the Children's Health Insurance Program at $65,000 in annual income. The amendment fixes another loophole in the bill which would permit States to set Medicaid eligibility higher than the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Last night the Senate Finance Committee voted out an economic stimulus package with $87 billion in increased Medicaid spending. The increased Medicaid spending is in the form of higher Federal payments to States for the coverage of people in the Medicaid Program.
We heard over and over, from the other side of the aisle, how the Federal taxpayers need to pay for more Federal dollars going into Medicaid because, if they do not, then States will cut benefits or cut back on the already dismal payments for providers who see Medicaid patients. In fact, I offered an amendment to that stimulus bill to protect the safety net. It was defeated on a party-line vote.
My amendment essentially said that if Congress is going to give States $87 billion for their Medicaid Programs, then we should make sure they do not undermine access to vital services with cutbacks to children's hospitals and public hospitals that are already struggling, and we should make sure States do not cut funds for health centers and for pediatricians.
The $87 billion in the so-called stimulus bill will not do much good to protect low-income children and families' health coverage if States are allowed to take these billions of dollars intended to protect the safety net and instead use them as their own slush fund to do whatever they want.
But, sadly, my amendments to protect the safety net were defeated. What we now have is the so-called stimulus bill. In that is nothing more than a $87 billion slush fund for the States.
With States crying out for a multibillion dollar bailout from the Federal Government, it seems to me very ironic that we have come to such a logjam over whether to allow States to expand income levels as high as 300 percent to 400 percent of poverty.
In one State, I believe it is New York, that is above $87,000-a-year income, plus $40,000 to disregard above that.
On the one hand, the other side is fighting so hard to allow States to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to allow coverage at these higher income levels while, on the other hand, they are saying that unless the Federal Government dumps billions of dollars into State coffers, States will be forced to eliminate benefits and services at very lowest income levels.
That argument obviously makes no sense whatsoever. We should be focusing our efforts on covering low-income kids first. The other side will come down here and say that is what they are doing. But when they are unwilling to back up their rhetoric with changes to actually do that, I wish to make sure everyone understands what we are talking about with this legislation and particularly the Roberts amendment.
The Children's Health Insurance Program provides higher Federal matching dollars to States to provide health coverage for low-income children. That is what it does. The higher Federal matching dollars are there to encourage States to expand their program and get these kids covered. This program has been in place now since 1997--obviously 12 years--and still there are about 6 million low-income uninsured children in America today. The Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization should be focused on getting these low-income kids covered and that should be the top priority in this bill. But this bill goes in a different direction. It allows coverage of kids and families with incomes of $83,000.
The median family income in America is roughly $50,000, and I imagine in my State it is probably even lower than that. The median income is the point at which half the households have incomes above that level and half have incomes below that level. So when the Government steps in and says let's have the taxpayers pay for your health coverage, those scarce dollars should be focused on the low-income kids this program is intended to insure--those kids, obviously, who are still uninsured. That ought to be our first priority.
But when the program is allowed to cover children in families at $83,000, and even higher, that means families below the median income are being forced to pay for the health care costs for children of families in the top half, and they are being forced to have their taxes go up to pay for that coverage in the top half, when they may not even have coverage for their own children. That is just plain wrong.
What Senator Roberts' amendment does is cap the eligibility for programs at families with incomes of $65,000. Some people are going to say even that is too high. But at least we are kind of keeping it toward the national median income. That is still a family income that is above, obviously, the median income. A lot of people would say that is still way too high. I cannot say that too many times because I know what the grassroots of America are saying about what we do around here, particularly in rural America; that it seems like we do not understand how the average family lives. But the Roberts amendment is better than the unlimited coverage this Children's Health Insurance Program bill would allow.
But the other side does not want to have any amendments. This is a fundamental difference we have in how we think about things. They believe the Government has to be the solution. They will oppose putting any income limits on eligibility. They want to allow States to expand their programs so taxpayers in the bottom half of incomes in America are helping to buy health coverage for people in the top half of the income or in my State of Iowa, where the average income is less than $50,000, they are going to say Iowans ought to support New York families with incomes of $83,000 for a Children's Health Insurance Program in that State. They believe Government has to be a solution to cover higher income kids. They believe if the Government does not do it, then it will not happen--even though we have about 6 million low-income kids still uninsured in this country; even though States are crying out for the multibillion dollar bailout that is going to be in the stimulus package. They still want to say they will oppose putting any limits on this program. It is outrageous.
When we are headed toward a Federal budget deficit of $2 trillion or more this year, we need to get a grip on reality. Policies that encourage expansions at such high income levels, $83,000 and above, are counter to that effort and are at odds with the fiscal reality and the current demands of States.
I say that every Member ought to take a look at the Roberts amendment. It is a commonsense step to make this bill do what the Children's Health Insurance Program was supposed to be doing for the last 12 years, since it was first instituted in 1997--to help low-income kids get the coverage that they would not otherwise have.
I support this amendment and urge my colleagues to do the same.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I wish to speak on Kyl amendment No. 46, named after Senator Kyl from Arizona.
I strongly support the amendment that has been offered by Senator Kyl. This is to the children's health insurance bill. This amendment would reinstate the crowdout policies that were agreed to by both sides in the bipartisan children's health insurance bills that we debated in the Senate in 2007. For reasons that I cannot fathom, this important section of the bill was dropped this year.
A high incidence of crowdout is problematic for many reasons. Before we go any further, I wish to make sure it is clear what the term ``crowdout'' means. Crowdout can have many meanings, in fact, so let me elaborate.
The crowdout we are referring to is when a family already has health coverage for their child and they cancel that policy to put them on a government program. This is referred to as crowdout with the idea that when the government comes in and offers taxpayers subsidized health coverage, it crowds out the coverage that was already there in the first place. This is a bad thing when it happens for a number of reasons, so I will go into those reasons.
First of all, crowdout makes it more difficult for employers to offer health insurance coverage. It especially impacts small employers who may be unable to meet health plan participation requirements. It has implications for the cost of coverage for those who have private plans because it removes a large number of young and healthy individuals from the risk pool, thus spreading the cost of high-risk individuals across smaller and, in most cases, older pools.
The second reason crowdout is bad is it inappropriately uses taxpayers' dollars to fund coverage that could have been provided by an employer. Individuals either leave coverage that had been funded in part by their employer or do not enroll in plans offered and subsidized by their employer to enroll in a private plan. When this occurs, the employer contribution to those plans is replaced by taxpayer dollars.
So crowdout is bad because it crowds out health coverage that was already there. It means taxpayer-subsidized coverage is gradually creeping in and taking over the market. But it is also bad because it is a waste of taxpayers' money. That is what we ought to emphasize because even though this bill meets a good goal of millions of more kids being covered, the question is, are we making the best use of taxpayers' dollars because there are another several million out there we ought to be covering. So when we are incentivizing people leaving private coverage for taxpayer support, then that money isn't available for the millions of people who aren't being covered.
When crowdout happens, it means the Federal taxpayers are being told to pay for coverage for someone who already had coverage. If that child already had coverage, then it goes without saying this child was not uninsured.
Remember the whole problem is when the taxpayers end up paying for coverage that was already there. So the more the children's health insurance programs are allowed to expand to high incomes, the bigger the problem of crowdout becomes.
The focus of this bill should be covering the millions of uninsured kids we have in America with emphasis on the lower the income, the more rationale there probably is for covering kids.
Crowdout is also a bigger problem when the children's health insurance programs try to cover higher income kids. It is easy to see why. Children who live in families with higher incomes are much more likely to have access to private coverage. It means more taxpayer dollars being spent on kids who already have coverage, and it means fewer dollars to cover the lower income kids who are still uninsured. So it is backwards when this happens.
When scarce taxpayer dollars are used to pay for coverage for someone who wasn't uninsured in the first place, this is a complete waste and a mismanagement of scarce resources, and it is a waste of scarce Federal dollars at a time when we cannot afford to do that. It also means one less dollar that could have been used to cover a child who doesn't have any health insurance whatsoever.
The policies that Members on both sides of the aisle agreed to in both of the bipartisan children's health insurance bills we debated in 2007 had a very good policy to minimize crowdout. First of all, those bills--the similar children's health insurance bills that were debated and passed in 2007--had very good policies to minimize this problem we refer to as crowdout. First of all, those bills set out a process in place to study the issue of crowdout. It asked the Government Accountability Office to do a report for Congress describing the best practices that each of the 50 States are using to address the issue of crowdout and whether things such as geographic variation or family income affects crowdout. The provision eliminated in the bill before the Senate--and this is this year, in 2009--also would require the Institute of Medicine to report on the most accurate, reliable, and timely way to measure the coverage of low-income children and the best way to measure crowdout. That provision was eliminated in this bill.
Based on these recommendations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was required to develop and publish recommendations regarding best practices for States to address crowdout. The Secretary was also required to implement a uniform standard for data collection by States to measure and report on health coverage for low-income children and crowdout.
The bipartisan crowdout policy of 2 years ago would also require States, having received the recommendations from the Secretary, to describe how the State was addressing the children's health insurance program crowdout issue and how the State was incorporating the best practices developed by the Secretary. The crowdout policy in both bipartisan bills 2 years ago included an enforcement mechanism to hold States accountable for minimizing crowdout when they expand to higher income levels.
This is a very important issue because as we learned from the 2007 report from the Congressional Budget Office, crowdout is a particularly acute problem in children's health insurance programs because crowdout occurs more frequently at higher income levels.
The Congressional Budget Office report also concludes that:
In general, expanding the program to children in higher income families is likely to generate more of an offsetting reduction in private coverage than expanding the program to more children in low-income families.
I wish to emphasize for the public at large--my colleagues know this--the Congressional Budget Office is a nonpartisan, fiscal expert. So this is not a partisan issue of that Congressional Budget Office report.
Going on to refer to the Congressional Budget Office, that office estimates that:
The reduction in private coverage among children is between a quarter and a half of the increase in public coverage resulting from SCHIP. In other words, for every 100 children who enroll as a result of SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.
That is the end of the quote from CBO.
Therefore, under both bipartisan bills, the Secretary, using the improved data mechanism, would determine if a State that was covering children over 300 percent of poverty was doing a good job of covering low-income children. That is to emphasize the point: What was the purpose of SCHIP in 1997? To cover low-income kids who never had any coverage. So you spend a lot of time covering higher income families, and you have less money then to cover low-income kids, and then you have the crowdout that exacerbates that problem.
If it was determined that a State was not doing a good job covering low-income children, then the State will not be able to receive Federal payments for children over 300 percent of poverty. So here there is kind of a sense that we are not arguing if you want to cover people above 300 percent, but, by golly, as a State, you aren't doing a good job of taking care of the low-income kids--where the problem was and why we passed the bill in the first place. You shouldn't be covering people over 300 percent of poverty.
This crowdout policy in both bipartisan bills of 2007 would have worked to minimize crowdout by making sure the States are staying focused on covering low-income kids. So it is a very important issue, and it is one on which we worked together on a bipartisan basis.
There was a lot of debate about crowdout in 2007 when we had extensive discussions about the Children's Health Insurance Program. Everybody recognized this to be a very big problem. So this is why I am so entirely baffled as to why my Democratic colleagues would abandon a provision they helped develop in a bipartisan bill 2 years ago. I don't know why they would want to strike such an important part of the bill and one that also helps blunt sharp criticism of the bill when it allowed States to expand eligibility to 300 percent of poverty.
The bill before us now allows expansion to even higher and higher income kids.
As the Congressional Budget Office says, the crowdout problem is going to be even worse under this bill than it is already.
According to the Congressional Budget Office table detailing estimates of enrollment based on this bill, 2.4 million children will forgo private coverage for public coverage. This is a very troubling number. The fact that the Senate bill does not address this problem and goes back on policies that were worked out on a bipartisan basis is problematic.
I hope Members will reevaluate their opposition to policies to reduce crowdout and to vote in support of the amendment I have been talking about that my colleague, Senator Kyl from Arizona, has offered.
We need to do the right thing here. We need to keep the Children's Health Insurance Program focused where it first started out in 1997 on lower income kids, for sure, in the case of a handful of States covering more adults than they do even kids.
We need to prevent scarce taxpayer funds from being used to pay for kids who already have health coverage. We need to put this bipartisan policy that we had in two bills in 2007 back in this bill.
I urge my colleagues to support the Kyl amendment and do just that.
I yield the floor.
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