In 1997 the Republican Congress worked with President Clinton to create the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to give grants to the 50 states to provide health care for American's neediest children. After a decade, it's now up for renewal.
I voted to create SCHIP 10 years ago, and support renewing it today. The program has largely been a success, but there's a need for improvement. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the states have failed to sign up 5 to 6 million children currently eligible for SCHIP. We can do better than that.
A promise was made 10 years ago to care for the neediest children, and with millions eligible but not getting it today, these children must be the focus of renewing SCHIP.
The current legislation in Congress instead seeks to expand the size and scope of the program in a move towards a Canadian-style government run health care system.
It's discouraging that rather than making certain the kids most in need get signed up for care, some are intent on expanding the program to the point that families of four earning over $80,000 a year will switch from existing private insurance to taxpayer-funded care.
That's not the right approach. We should renew SCHIP and get the states the funds needed to sign up the millions of kids they haven't over the past 10years. I agree with my Democrat and Republican colleagues that the budget plan put forward by the Bush Administration in February wasn't adequate for funding SCHIP. We should provide the funds needed to fully cover all eligible children.
We also need to end abuses. It's troubling that many states are giving children's health care funds to adults. In fact, Wisconsin covers almost twice as many adults as children.
While I couldn't support the most recent SCHIP bill that Democrat leaders passed through Congress, it's an improvement over their initial plan. The first House Democrat bill from July would have cut Medicare and put at risk the health care plans of 150,000 seniors in Washington state. The Medicare cuts would have also forced the closure of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
While I'm relieved these cuts have been removed for now - powerful Democrat committee chairmen have sworn to enact these Medicare cuts before the end of the year. The support of Washington state's entire congressional delegation is going to be necessary to prevent the elimination of seniors' health care plans and the government-forced shutdown of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
There is universal agreement on renewing SCHIP and it's my sincere hope leaders in Congress will work with the President to agree on a bipartisan plan that fully funds SCHIP for all states and keeps focus on the neediest children that the program was created to help.
Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.