Mitch McConnell

SCHIP was originally created to help the needy. But it's clear the authors of this new proposal have gotten greedy.

That's why I proposed an alternate bill, the Kids First Act, that focuses on SCHIP's true goal: protecting low-income children. It would reauthorize SCHIP for five more years, ensure that children stay enrolled by adding $14 billion on top of the current SCHIP budget, and add 1.3 million new kids to the SCHIP program by 2012.

Just as important, my plan would do so without raising taxes or increasing the deficit.

Not only does the Kids First Act cost significantly less than the liberals' bill, but many states, including Kentucky, would have more SCHIP funds to spend covering kids next year under my proposal than under the more expensive alternative.

The Kids First Act also improves upon current SCHIP law by providing funds to reach out to those low-income children who are eligible, but still not taking advantage of the program.

And it will help small businesses provide coverage for their employees by allowing them to band together for greater purchasing power, making health care more affordable.

Like many Americans, I'm frustrated about much of our current health care system. But I don't believe that raising taxes, discouraging families from buying private insurance or letting adults leech off a program designed for children should be part of the solution.

All of those actions would put us on a slippery slope toward government-run health care. Instead, Congress should protect a program that works, and make sure that low-income children who rely on SCHIP for health insurance stay covered.

Mitch McConnell

Senator McConnell of Kentucky is the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate.