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Goodbye, Mr. SCHIPS

Unless President Bush vetoes it and is upheld, make way for Creeping HillaryCare.

By 8.9.07

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Unless President Bush vetoes it and is upheld, get out of the way for Creeping HillaryCare. That is because a greatly expanded SCHIPS (State Children's Health Insurance Program) was passed by both houses of Congress just before the members fled Washington for vacation.

SCHIPS had its origin in Hillary Clinton's 1993 health care "reform" task force whose purpose was to bestow on us universal, government-paid health care. One approach it proposed was to create a Trojan Horse named Kids First. The task force report stated, "Under this approach healthcare reform is phased in by population (group), beginning with the most vulnerable of our citizens--children." They also admitted that this "is really a precursor to the new (universal) system."

Four years after HillaryCare was buried, a Republican Congress passed legislation to create what it thought would be a modest program, SCHIPS, to provide coverage for children in families whose income was up to twice the poverty level. That is, $40,000.

Always calculating ways to enhance their position at the next election, today's Democrat majorities found the perfect vehicle, dramatic expansion of SCHIPS. They now define the "poor" as families making four times the poverty rate, or $80,000 a year. Not only that, "children" are redefined as being in that status up to age 25. The legislation calls for all this to be "paid for" by a $1-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes.

Smoking is unpopular, so who would oppose a tax increase on cigarettes? There are two things wrong with this idea. First, the cigarette tax is a very chancy thing on which to base the funding of anything, especially something such as a program that will almost certainly grow. Second, both anti-smoking education campaigns and ever-higher cigarette prices are resulting in fewer and fewer smokers every year. And add this ironic twist, smokers are predominantly in lower-economic strata so that they will be subsidizing what is a middle-class entitlement. One hopes they will remember to thank Congressional Democrats.

Ronald Reagan once said, "The nearest thing to eternal life on this earth is a government program." And this is one that will grow and grow. If Congress were to override a Bush veto, watch for it to expand again. Human nature being what it is, many eligible families will drop their children from their private coverage and put them under the "free" SCHIPS program. Thus, the pool of privately insured would shrink and the rolls of those dependent upon government would swell.

Congressional Republicans found it hard to resist this bad bill dressed up, as it was, in the clothes of a noble cause, children's health. Republican pollster Whit Ayres is quoted as saying recently, "You can't construct a poll question on children and health without getting an overwhelming majority in favor of giving health insurance to children."

When the Senate voted a day after the House, 18 of 49 Republican members were frightened enough over the possibility of being tagged "against children" that they voted for a bill that will expand again and again so long as the Democrats are in charge on Capitol Hill, and especially if the doyenne of HillaryCare is, herself, in charge of things at the White House come January 20, 2009. The only way to say goodbye to Mr. SCHIPS this time around is a George Bush veto, followed by heavy White House lobbying of Senate Republicans so they will sustain it.

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”