This Entitlement Will Sink Us

Scott Garrett
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Posted: Aug 07, 2007 10:16 AM
This Entitlement Will Sink Us

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a $160 billion entitlement explosion, a $53 billion tax hike, relaxed rules for illegal immigrant access to federal benefits, and a package of Medicare cuts. With this they are saddling our children with extraordinary debt, and are doing so without my vote.

All of this was rolled into a single bill: the so-called reauthorization of the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program).

The program was established under the premise that it would provide health insurance for children whose families were too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid, but too poor to afford private insurance. In the intervening years, it has strayed far from this premise. And the bill passed this week not only doesn't return it to its roots, it expands it so dramatically that, if signed into law, two-thirds of the American people could end up under government-run health care.

The Democrats' SCHIP bill is a thinly veiled effort to shift children – and, under its own definitions, adults – from private health coverage to a government-run entitlement program.

Nationalized health care

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 2.1 million people who are currently covered by private health plans will be forced into this nationalized health care. We all know how efficiently the government runs the programs already in its authority – according to the Congressional Research Service, the Medicare hot line rang 42.2 million times last year and Medicare lost an estimated 3 percent to 10 percent of all its funding to waste, fraud, and abuse in 2006. Do we really want them to have control of everyone's health care?

Unfair taxation

Furthermore, there's almost no effort to hide this bulk transfer to nationalized health care. Under its oxymoronic eligibility criteria, at least 70,000 American families will now be both eligible for taxpayer-funded entitlement health care and subject to the unfair Alternative Minimum Tax, the tax that was intended for millionaires. Families will have their hard-earned money sucked from their budget by the bracket creep of the AMT in order to subsidize their own government-run health care.

Rather than take money out of the parents' pockets to provide government health care for their children, wouldn't that family be better served if we put our resources into fixing the AMT, allowing them to keep their hard-earned money in the first place?

Interestingly enough, the SCHIP bill balances the new entitlements on the backs of our nation's vulnerable seniors with $37.1 billion in cuts to Medicare providers. It makes cuts for hospital care, skilled nursing care, home health care, oxygen therapy and imaging. It even limits access to wheelchairs.

And, according to a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report, an estimated 3 million seniors will literally lose their coverage altogether, including more than 6,700 seniors in New Jersey's 5th District.

Paying for illegal immigrants

To make matters worse, the SCHIP bill also forces the American taxpayer to pay for health benefits for illegal immigrants. It removes current safeguards meant to keep illegal immigrants from accessing SCHIP benefits, while simultaneously establishing mandatory $400 million expenditure for translation services for non-English-speaking enrollees.

The SCHIP bill is dangerous policy. And, it was brought to the floor through dangerous procedure, bypassing debate and committee review in an effort to cram it through the House before adjourning for the month of August.

The family budget – for today's taxpayers and tomorrow's – should be our first concern, not cheap political ploys.

The president has said he will veto this bill. With a strong bipartisan vote against the bill of more than 200 representatives, his veto should stand. At that point, I hope the Democratic leadership will go back to the drawing board and formulate a reasonable proposal that protects children, seniors and taxpayers.