CONGRESSMAN GREGG HARPER COMMENTS ON SCHIP

“At a time when our economy is struggling and people are hurting, we cannot saddle our citizens with an additional $35 billion in new federal spending that will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren.”

Washington, D.C – On Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives took up consideration of H.R. 2, the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009 (SCHIP). U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS) voted against the bill although it was passed by a vote of 289 to 139.

While Congressman Harper certainly supports providing healthcare to poor children, and in fact favors reauthorization of the SCHIP program, the bill that was passed today by the U.S. House greatly expands the original program at a cost to the taxpayers of $35 billion over the next four-and-a-half years. The bill as passed removes identity protections contained in the current program increasing the opportunity for fraudulent enrollment by those who are not eligible for the program such as illegal aliens. Also, it contained a tax increase of $70 billion over ten years on tobacco products, which will require 22 million new smokers in order to fund the expansion. Additionally, the measure allows for more adults to enroll in this program that was designed for children. Finally, the Congressional Budget Office projects that our country will pay $5 billion just to provide benefits to illegal aliens.

“At a time when our economy is struggling and people are hurting, we cannot saddle our citizens with an additional $35 billion in new federal spending that will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren.”

The SCHIP program was originally passed by the Republican led Congress more than a decade ago in order to provide health insurance to the children of low income parents who were moving from welfare to the workforce and as a result would no longer qualify for Medicaid. This was an important piece of welfare reform led by the Republican Party and has been a successful federal-state partnership.

H.R. 2 expands the program to new enrollees greatly increasing the cost, and since this is a federal-state matching program, passes part of this burden on to the states that are already struggling to adequately fund their current Medicaid programs. The bill also qualifies for SCHIP those families that are earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level which for a family of four is an income approaching $80,000 a year. The legislation is clearly intended to move the country closer to a system of national healthcare and to do so without any national debate.

The Democratic leadership of the U.S. House rushed H.R. 2 to the House floor in the second week of the new 111th Congress, bypassed the committee process, held no hearings, and restricted debate on the bill to one hour with no opportunity to amend the bill or offer substitute proposals. A bill of this size and import deserved more input and exposure from the wide array of interest groups that are impacted by it – not the least of which are the elected representatives of the taxpayers. The Members of the U.S. House of Representatives deserved the respect of the Democratic House leadership that would have come from more debate and legislative consideration of the bill through the appropriate committee hearing process.

The measure now moves to the Senate where similar legislation has been introduced. While President Bush vetoed SCHIP reauthorization in 2008, and Congress failed to override that veto, President Obama has indicated that he will sign such legislation.

Rep. Gregg Harper Press Release
1/14/8