My Vote on the Reauthorization of SCHIP

January 14, 2009
Frankly Speaking

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.  This is a federally funded program that provides health care to children.  While I believe that this is a good program and I support initiatives to bring health care to children who need it, I could not support this reauthorization.

To begin with, SCHIP is already funded through March 31, 2009.  Reauthorizing it now, and it this extremely fast pace, is unnecessary.  In addition, applicants are not required to present proof of their identity, other than a verbal presentation of their Social Security number.  This weakens the standards to determine which children are eligible and opens the program up to abuse and fraud.

Finally, under the reauthorization, the expansion of SCHIP will be funded by an increased tax on tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars.  However, the use of tobacco products has dramatically dropped in the last few years and studies show that another increase in price will cause that number to drop even further.  This means that in order to fully fund SCHIP for the next ten years this country would need 22.4 million new smokers.  If that is not accomplished, then an additional tax will most likely be levied on the American taxpayer. 

I also fear this bill is an example of a problem that is becoming more commonplace in the 111th Congress.  Rather than allow for committee consideration and debate, Speaker Pelosi crammed this bill across the floor of the House of Representatives and barred all amendments.  SCHIP is a good program that has been subjected to bad policy.  It is unfortunate that the Speaker chose to pass this important bill in this manner instead of allowing a real discussion that would ensure SCHIP is a successful and financially viable program.  I hope that the legislative procedure for future bills, especially of this magnitude, will be slowed so that everyone may be involved in the process.