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The Kids First Act

Location: Washington, DC

The Kids First Act

‘Our alternative will add 1.3 million new kids to the SCHIP program by 2012. By contrast, the Finance Committee bill actually begins reducing kids' coverage in 2012, and results in fewer children having SCHIP coverage in 2017'

Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced an alternative to the SCHIP legislation on Wednesday, titled the Kids First Act. The alternative proposal would focus the program on low-income children without raising taxes. Leader McConnell made the following statement Wednesday regarding the Kids First Act.

"The State Children's Health Insurance Program was created to target the health-care needs of poor children whose families made too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but were still in danger of not being able to afford private health insurance.

"SCHIP is in many ways successful, as last year, 6.6 million children had health care coverage thanks to it, including more than 50,000 in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. From 1996 to 2005, the rate of children living without health insurance in America dropped by 25 percent.

"So as the Senate turned to debate the reauthorization of this federal/state partnership, I had hoped that all of my colleagues would focus on SCHIP's true goal: covering children.

"Unfortunately, that's not what the Finance Committee's bill does. This bill is a dramatic departure from current SCHIP law that will significantly raise taxes, increase spending and lead to government-run health care.

"At a time when the people of America have made clear that they want us to reduce government spending, Democrats are going to spend $112 billion of the taxpayers' money. And part of this increase will go toward people that SCHIP was never meant to cover, as this proposal will allow more adults to piggyback onto a children's health program.

"So Senators Lott, Kyl, Gregg, Bunning and I have proposed an alternative measure I hope all of my colleagues will consider. Our Kids First Act will refocus SCHIP to help the people it was designed to help: low-income children.

"The Kids First Act will reauthorize SCHIP for five years, and would ensure that children enrolled in SCHIP stay covered by adding $14 billion in funding above and beyond the baseline SCHIP budget.

"Our alternative will add 1.3 million new kids to the SCHIP program by 2012. By contrast, the Finance Committee bill actually begins reducing kids' coverage in 2012, and results in fewer children having SCHIP coverage in 2017.

"Our alternative also provides $400 million over the next five years for states to spend on outreach and enrollment for low-income children who are eligible but not on SCHIP, so we can enroll them. This money will help guarantee that SCHIP dollars go towards the low-income kids the program is meant to help.

"The Kids First Act takes several measures to make health insurance more affordable and cost-effective. For instance, it encourages premium assistance to aid parents in buying private health insurance for their children.

"It also includes the Small Business Health Plan legislation we considered in the 109th Congress. Of the 20 million working Americans who do not have health insurance, nearly half work in firms of 25 or fewer.

"Small Business Health Plans would allow those firms to band together across state lines, increase their bargaining power and afford better health-care coverage for their employees.

"Finally, our alternative ensures that the taxpayers' dollars are spent appropriately by decreasing the number of adults who can take advantage of the program.

"While considerably less expensive to the taxpayers than the Finance Committee's bill, it's worth noting that many states, including Kentucky, would fare better next year under the Kids First Act than under the committee bill.

"Our plan is fiscally responsible and focuses government assistance on those who really need it. It reauthorizes and improves upon a program that works, instead of transforming it into a license for higher taxes, higher spending, and another giant leap toward government-run health care.

"It can receive a presidential signature, and it deserves this Senate's support."

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