October 6, 2007


I've been watching the SCHIP controversy over the last few weeks with some interest. One of the primary things I've been watching is the President's weekly radio addresses and the Democratic response. Last week was completely uninteresting. It featured President Bush effectively attacking the SCHIP bill, while the Democrats provided a really short sob story and an emotional appeal from 1 kid that benefited from SCHIP, without even recognizing any of President Bush's critiques.

This week was a bit better.

Factual Discrepancies

The first thing I noted, was that both parties had different figures for who is eligible. Bush claimed that:

"more than 500,000 poor children who are eligible for SCHIP coverage are not enrolled in the program."

Hoyer, however, had this to say:

"millions of other children who are currently eligible...are not enrolled due to the program's limited resources."

As neither Bush nor Hoyer cites any source, I do not know where the numbers are coming from. I suspect each has a separate source. What would interest me the most is the criteria used by each source to come up with their figures. If I have time, I may do more research on this later. If anyone knows anything about it, please let me know.


Hoyer makes several claims.

Fiscally Irresponsible

First, he claims the bill is not fiscally irresponsible:

"The President claims...this bill is fiscally irresponsible. The truth is, this legislation is fully paid for."

In two recent entries, Congressman John Campbell explains what Hoyer means by "fully paid for". In the first, "The Revenue Raiser, aka Tax Hike" John Campbell discusses the "sin tax" on tobacco products. The idea of "sin taxes" is the dangerous idea that something that is deemed bad by certain people should be discouraged (and made profitable to government). Especially with the increased push towards national health care, we will probably see more and more taxes aimed at "encouraging health" to keep the cost of health care lower. For example, a "fat tax" on fast food, or a maybe a tax for any food outside a government approved diet. In his other entry, "The President just Vetoed the SCHIP Bill", he points out that "cigarette taxes are one of the most regressive taxes, that is, a tax that falls more heavily on lower income individuals as a percentage of income." In other words, part of funding poor children's health care is taxing other poor people (possible the parents) heavily for smoking.

However, the next method of "funding" SCHIP that Campbell cites is even more irresponsible:

"In order to disguise the $40 billion in spending the Senate proposes to cut SCHIP by 80% in 2013, of course the supporters of this bill do not really intend to cut SCHIP, which would force millions of kids off the program, so the overall cost of the bill is closer to $110 billion, which more than doubles the cost of the current program."


Hoyer further claims:

"under the President's proposal more than 800,000 children who now receive coverage under CHIP would lose that coverage."

Unfortunately, he provides no explanation of how this occurs. According to the President:

"My Administration has added more than 2 million children to SCHIP since 2001. And our 2008 budget increases SCHIP funding by 20 percent over five years."

However, elsewhere, Hoyer claims that the legislation passed by Congress does not change eligibility. With Bush citing problems with SCHIP covering children of well-off families (with incomes of up to $83,000) and even covering adults, a glaring problem Hoyer complete ignores. The President claims:

"States are spending SCHIP funds on adults...based on their own projections for this fiscal year, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island, and New Mexico will spend more SCHIP money on adults than they do on children."

Perhaps Bush's proposal restricts eligibility (which, given his claims, seems perfectly reasonable).

Creeping National Health Care

Hoyer continues:

"The President claims that this legislation would lead to a government takeover of health insurance. He is wrong."

Or is he? As the President pointed out, a plan that was originally designed to cover poor children who's families can't afford health care has been expanded to include adults and families with incomes of up to 4 times the poverty line ($83,000).

In fact, Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic essential argues that the expansion of SCHIP is a good thing because it is closer to national health care:

Conservatives combat S-CHIP with fuzzy math: Chip Off
by Jonathan Cohn
"if you think providing insurance to these people--and, eventually, to all Americans--is good thing, then maybe we should expand S-CHIP after all, eventually using it as the foundation for a universal health care system. Don't let the conservatives fool you. When it comes to health care, government isn't the problem. It's the solution."

President's Promise

Hoyer also accuses President Bush of violating his campaign promise. According to Hoyer, Bush promised:

"In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs. We will not allow, he said, 'a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need."

Hoyer claims that by vetoing the SCHIP bill, Bush violated this promise. However, the question here is not cutting or expanding SCHIP, but how much to expand the program. Bush proposes to increase the program by 20% over the next 5 years. The bill in question more than doubles SCHIP over the next 5 years, then cuts it by 80% in 2013. The fact that Bush does not agree with everything Hoyer wants to do does not mean he has broken his promise to provide health care for poor children.


In conclusion, it seems to me that Bush's veto was completely justified. Although in contrast to Jonathan Cohn, I would like to see a move towards more privatization of health care, I think we can agree that barring any major changes towards that end, there is no reason to suddenly pull funding for children's health care. However, Bush's proposal does not appear to do so and a grossly irresponsible bill is not the solution.

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