August 7th, 2007

HillaryCare on the Installment Plan


A version of this blog post appeared on Redstate on August 7, 2007.

Established in 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, pronounced “s-chip”) is a partnership between the states and federal government to insure poor children. The program is up for reauthorization by September 30, but big-government liberals want not just to renew it, but also to expand it.

The problem is, the expansion (H.R. 3162, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007) contradicts SCHIP’s original, limited intent.

First, it redefines eligibility by recognizing people up to 21 as “children.”

Second, it extends coverage to a family of four with an income of $82,600—hardly a “low-income” group.

Third, by removing the requirement for reauthorization, it transforms SCHIP from its current block grant status into a permanent entitlement, like Medicaid, which is automatically funded every year, regardless of congressional approval.

Thus, what’s being proposed is not reauthorization but repudiation. SCHIP was intended to insure kids. Now it’s being exploited to encompass adults and even wealthy families. Instead of distorting language and creating new entitlement programs, we should reaffirm sensible age, income and reauthorization parameters.

Furthermore, the proposed expansion crowds out private insurers in favor of government health care. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill will cause nearly two million people to abandon market-based medicine for Washington-based mandates.

In order to avoid caricature, this debate is not about whether to insure poor children. This debate is about how to insure them: not via welfare-style coverage, but via market forces that have facilitated the world’s most advanced drugs and cures.

Finally, at a time of ballooning deficits, expanding SCHIP makes a mockery of fiscal responsibility. According to CBO estimates, the bill will cost nearly $60 billion over 10 years, which is 10 times President Bush’s budget request.

Moreover, in order to finance all this, smokers would be hit with an extra half dollar in taxes for every pack of cigarettes they buy. Such a sin tax is inequitable and regressive.

Democrats are picking up where Hillary Clinton left off 14 years ago. Their Hillary Care-lite legislation deserves the same fate as hers: ignominious defeat.

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