The current debate in Congress regarding the State Children's Health Insurance Program is one that should concern us all.
The program, known as PeachCare in Georgia, was specifically designed to provide health insurance coverage to children in low-income families and pregnant women who are not eligible for Medicaid but do not make enough to purchase private health insurance. In Georgia, that means those who are below 235 percent of the federal poverty level (about $48,528 for a family of four).
Government providing a safety net for those in need is a far cry from the Baucus-Grassley plan that recently passed the Senate by a vote of 68-31. This bill expands the current program by $35 billion over the next five years and will include families who make upwards of $80,000 per year, thereby creating a new middle-class entitlement program.
S. 1224 increases the coverage to include adults (currently, Georgia's plan does not include adults), which is not the original intent of the program. It includes raising the federal tobacco tax, a regressive tax, because it falls disproportionately on low-income families - the very ones the program was designed to help. It encourages parents to pull their children out of private plans in favor of this taxpayer-supported plan, which means that for every one million additional children SCHIP covers, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 will switch from private coverage to the taxpayer-funded program.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the total cost of the bill over the 2008-17 period would be $112 billion, which is significantly above the $71 billion estimate in revenues provided by the tobacco tax.
S. 1224, as written, will require the government to either drop millions of children off health care in 2013 or impose a new tax to raise the additional $41 billion needed to sustain the increased levels of coverage. There is more to object to in this bill, but suffice it to say, it perverts the core mission of SCHIP.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson are to be commended for voting against this bill. While expressing their desire to continue funding for those in need, they refuse to be a party to legislation that involves a tax increase, which will lead to a vast expansion of government, creating yet another bureaucratic nightmare.
Sadie Fields is the State Chairman of the Georgia Christian Alliance.