Cornyn: Redouble efforts to focus on original intent of S-CHIP

There is no sound basis upon which to take what is essentially a welfare benefit and transfer that into a middle-class entitlement'

WASHINGTON-U.S. Sen. John Cornyn made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the importance of reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and making sure it covers poor children first, its original intent:

"The problem, after all, with the bill that Congress passed is while the State Children's Health Insurance Program was designed to take up where Medicaid left off, this was fundamentally a welfare benefit, and one which I believe the United States Congress wisely decided was necessary for our nation's poorer low-income children, to make sure they got access to health coverage. But what we see is that this vehicle was then used with a 140 percent increase in federal spending to take this program not just from children up to 200 percent of poverty, but to then say this can be a wealth transfer from the pockets of the American taxpayers to the middle class-because under the bill that the President vetoed, up to 400 percent of poverty level could be covered by this welfare benefit. That translates into a family of four roughly making $80,000 a year.

"It is simply unacceptable, from my perspective, to say that you can take money from the pockets of the American taxpayer not for a welfare benefit to help those in need, but to help those who already have their own health insurance and simply to provide a free benefit to those who are already covered by their own health insurance. I just think there is no sound basis upon which to take what is essentially a welfare benefit and transfer that into a middle-class entitlement unless of course there's something else going on here, which I suspect there is.

"I wish we would redouble our efforts to focus our vision on the original intent of the SCHIP legislation, because in my state there are roughly 500,000 Medicaid-eligible children who are not covered by Medicaid. Why? Because their parents haven't taken them and signed them up for this benefit that they're entitled to under the law. There are an additional 200,000 SCHIP-eligible children, up to 200 percent of poverty level in my state of Texas who are not signed up for that benefit. So why in the world, when there's still children in the target population that we're trying to help that remain uncovered are we going to be diverted by a huge expansion of this program beyond its original intent to cover adults in 14 states? In the state of Wisconsin more adults than children are covered by the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Obviously not part of Congress' original intent. And up to 400 percent of poverty level, up to $80,000-plus for a family of four. So I think it's simply another example of a well-intended program that has now been expanded beyond all recognition."

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"This matter has become a political football that is going to be used for partisan political gain. And I, for one, think that's a shame. I say that not with a sense of anger but with a sense of disappointment that we would see something as important as providing health coverage to our nation's children be used in political ads and that rather than to have a veto override vote in the United States House of Representatives forthwith, it's now been postponed by Speaker Pelosi to October 18 to give the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee time to run ads against those who would likely uphold the veto in their congressional districts over the next week or so. I think that's a shame. I wish they would reconsider."

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Click here for Sen. Cornyn's statement yesterday.

--Additional Information--

  • Sen. Cornyn made clear when this issue first came before the Senate in July that SCHIP should not only be reauthorized but even be expanded. As he said in this statement, "Reauthorization of SCHIP is extremely important to Texas, especially as our state strives to continue improving access to quality, affordable health care for children."
  • Sen. Cornyn in July voted for an alternate bill called Kids First that provided a $10 billion increase in funding, to $35 billion over five years, and would enroll an additional 1.3 million children. But the Congressional majority went on a spending spree, rejecting fiscal responsibility, by passing a $60 billion plan that accommodates families with an income of more than $80,000. The Democratic plan extends coverage from working, low-income children-the intended recipients-to parents, single adults and families earning more than $80,000.
  • The Democratic bill would penalize states such as Texas that stick with the original intent of SCHIP. The Texas Legislature has repeatedly kept SCHIP funding eligibility maximums at 200 percent above the federal poverty level, or $41,000 for a family of four. The Democratic bill is so lavishly funded that Texas cannot possibly observe the original program intent and still spend all funds allocated to it. Those funds will thus eventually be diverted to other states.
  • Under the $35 billion Kids First, over five years, Texas would be able to increase enrollment in SCHIP by more than 50 percent, as planned, and still have $200 million in unspent federal matching funds available after fiscal year 2012. Under the $60 billion Democratic bill, Texas would accumulate more than $2 billion in unspent federal matching funds over five years-which would eventually be returned to the Treasury and spent by other states with more costly SCHIP programs.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee's Airland subcommittee.