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Floor Statement of Michael B. Enzi

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program

October 31, 2007

Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or what folks on Capitol Hill are calling S-CHIP.

SCHIP was created by a Republican Congress in 1997 to help low income kids get health insurance. The goal of the program is to help kids that don’t qualify for Medicaid, but also can’t afford to get health insurance on their own, receive the care they need. This program was temporarily extended until November 16, 2007. I am here today to speak about how important it is for Congress to work with the President to reauthorize this critical program in a way that gets every single low income child who needs insurance insured. Mr. President, if it weren’t for politics, this would have been solved last week.

We have been working on this issue in the Senate for a few months now and the longer we work on it, the more political it becomes. I worry that some members in this chamber have lost sight of the goal—making sure all the low income children in this country have health care. The press has been reporting and members of this body have claimed that all the concerns were addressed in the last version of the bill the House voted on last week. Mr. President, that’s not correct. The concerns weren’t addressed.

The so-called "new" bill still fails to put low-income children first, by gutting the Administration’s requirement to enroll at least 95 percent of kids below 200 percent of poverty before expanding programs to cover higher income populations.

The so-called "new" bill still expands SCHIP to higher income families, by using income disregards clarifying certain expenses don’t count toward income. When the House debated the bill last week, Representative Dingell, the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, participated in a colloquy with Representative Burgess and explained how the income disregard loophole works. What this means in plain English is that the majority party knows there is a provision in the bill that could lead to children from families earning over $100,000 going onto government health care. This is exactly what I mean when I say we have lost focus when it comes to this bill. This program is intended to help low income kids—not kids from families earning as much as $100,000 a year.

The so-called "new" bill still allows the enrollment of adults, though the bill does transition childless adults off of SCHIP in into Medicaid, parents still receive SCHIP coverage.

The so-called "new" bill still removes 2 million individuals from private coverage and puts them on government-run health care. Congress needs to ensure this program is paying for health insurance for kids that don’t currently have health insurance, not switching kids from private insurance to government run health insurance. We need to help all Americans get health insurance, but there are better, more efficient ways than spoiling a good children’s plan. I have introduced a first-class 10 step plan that would help us achieve the goal of comprehensive health care reform.

But to get back to what is wrong with this bill.

The so-called "new" bill still expands SCHIP to illegal immigrants by weakening citizenship verification requirements.

The so-called "new" bill still is not paid for, relying on a budget trick to get around budget rules.

The so-called "new" bill still includes a tobacco tax increase. The proposed tax hike is highly regressive with much of the tax burden being shouldered by lower-income taxpayers. Now I am no fan of tobacco and I have spoken on this floor many times about why I am so adamantly against tobacco usage, but using a tobacco tax to pay for children’s health insurance doesn’t make sense. For one thing, to keep the program funding levels stable in the future, we would need 22 million more smokers.

The so-called "new" bill still contains district-specific earmarks. Again, we know we have lost focus on children’s health insurance when the bill contains earmarks for certain districts.

Clearly the so-called "new" bill hasn’t changed that much from the previous bills. We have to put low income kids first and this bill just doesn’t do that.

I’ve co-sponsored the Kids First Act, S. 2152. The bill would provide federal funding for children in need and require that the money actually be spent on children from families with lower incomes. This bill is a good step in the direction of compromise and I hope the majority will see that and start working with the minority to pass something the President can sign rather than continuing to play politics.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a great job my home state of Wyoming is doing in administering SCHIP. Wyoming first implemented its SCHIP program, Kid Care CHIP, in 1999. In 2003, Wyoming formed a public-private partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming and Delta Dental of Wyoming to provide the health, vision, and dental benefits to nearly 6,000 kids in Wyoming. These partnerships have made Kid Care CHIP a very successful program in Wyoming. All children enrolled in the program receive a wide range of benefits including inpatient and outpatient hospital services, lab and x-ray services, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse services, durable medical equipment, physical therapy, and dental and vision services. Families share in the cost of their children’s health care by paying co-payments for a portion of the care provided. These co-pays are capped at $200 a year per family.

Wyoming is also engaged in an outreach campaign targeted at finding and enrolling the additional 6,000 kids that are eligible for Kid Care CHIP, but aren’t enrolled.

I am proud of the great job Wyoming is doing implementing its program and I am happy to say that even if the program isn’t reauthorized, Wyoming will have enough money to run its program because the folks there know how to budget and plan. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope Congress will be able to set the politics aside and put the kids first. We have a job to do—for all the kids in the States that aren’t as fiscally responsible as Wyoming and will start running out of money—we owe it to them to work across the aisle and with the President and get a bill signed into law.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.