“By the time your story appears, the U.S. House of Representatives may have taken a big step toward socialized medicine!”
So said a breathless Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) at 5:30 p.m. on August 1. The congressman was just back from the House floor, where she called me after a day-long battle against what appeared to be inevitable enactment of SCHIP — that is, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program — as a permanent entitlement.
Recalling how the program to provide health care for lower-income children was enacted in 1997 by a Republican-run Congress and run as a bloc grant to the states, Blackburn pointed out that the newly-minted SCHIP that Democrats are trying to shoehorn through the House would “make drastic changes” and make the program “a permanent entitlement costing $159.9 billion over the next ten years.”
Under the new SCHIP — the brainchild of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich) — that she and her colleagues will vote on almost momentarily, there is no income limit for eligibility to the program that was originally designed for those in lower income brackets. As Blackburn noted, “if this becomes law, and someone makes up to $82,000 a year and pays the AMT [Alternative Minimum Tax], they are rich by IRS standards and poor by SCHIP standards:they are eligible for SCHIP!”
The Rangel-Dingel changes in the program include no sunsetting (it is reauthorized indefinitely), an end to state control of it (“open-ended federal funding, even if states go over budget,” observed Blackburn), and further incentives for illegal immigrants. At a time when municipalities such as Hazeltown, Pennsylvania and Prince William County, Virginia are passing measures to discourage the arrival of more illegal immigrants, SCHIP would actually permit illegal aliens to receive Medicaid by watering down citizenship verification standards.
As to how it would be paid, Blackburn noted that it would cut Medicare by $32.9 billion over ten years and increase cigarette taxes by 39 cents per cigarette package and and add an 84 cent tax increase to each dollar in the cost of cigars.
“Basically, Democrats are saying ‘kill seniors to pay for a bigger entitlement — smoke more, and pay more taxes,” said Blackburn.
The Tennessean recalled how there has been no hearing in either committee chaired by Dingell or Rangel, that it was brought to the floor today under a closed rule, and that the Democratic majority in the House has without hesitation struck down Republican motions to amend the SCHIP entitlement package. Blackburn herself unsuccessfully battled for an amendment to deny eligibility to those convicted of a drug-related crime. But her proposal lost, as did all the other GOP-sculpted amendments, on a near-party line vote.