Robert Novak

The massive expansion was proposed by Sen. Clinton this year, furthering her promise of "step by step" advancement toward universal health care. Her proposal extends SCHIP to families at 400 percent of poverty (or $82,000 annually). Hatch after 10 years is back again supporting a Democratic program along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Finance Committee's ranking Republican. But they want a mere $55 billion (a $30 billion increase), compared with Rockefeller's $75 billion, causing the postponement of today's markup.

The Democratic congressional majority now faces the consequence of its "paygo" mandate to account for higher spending. The Senate's preference for tobacco taxes runs into present overall cigarette taxes of more than one dollar a pack, lower legal cigarette purchases and reduced smoking typified by a 19 percent decline in New York City. More creative funding comes with Rep. Pete Stark's scheme in the House Ways and Means Committee for slashing the popular private Medicare program. That not only would fund an expanded SCHIP but move toward government monopoly over all health insurance.

An indirect but pervasive impact of Sen. Clinton's grand design would be the impact in the same family of children who are insured by the government while their parents are covered privately. Would the children become accustomed to Washington taking care of them? Would the adults drop private insurance? The future is now for universal health care coverage, and President George W. Bush may soon face the decision of whether or not to veto it going into the election year.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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