I support the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). During my first term in Congress, I voted to create the program and believe we need to responsibly reauthorize it.
Texas first began enrolling children in SCHIP in May 2000. Since that time, 1,928,725 Texas children have received their health care through SCHIP. And, nationwide, 7.4 million kids were enrolled in SCHIP in 2008.
There is no doubt that we all support providing insurance to low-income children. In fact, this program originally passed on a broad bipartisan basis. Enacted by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President, it was a model of bipartisanship.
SCHIP has been a good program that creates an important safety net to provide health insurance to low-income children whose families cannot afford private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid. But the Majority has repeated their mistakes from last Congress, and pushed through a bill with very little input from our Conference that strays from the original purpose of the SCHIP program. Not only does the Democrats' bill not put the priority on covering low income kids, the bill is paid for with tax increases and budget gimmicks.
That is why I have introduced a bill to expand the SCHIP program to cover millions of uninsured kids that is paid for without budget gimmicks and without raising taxes. My bill, the Kids First Act (H.R. 688), provides funding increases to state SCHIP programs and help them to find those eligible children who are not yet enrolled. In addition, the Kids First Act closes the loophole that allows some states to extend their program to higher income families, even while they have thousands of lower-income children who are still not covered. Finally, by responsibly allocating scarce resources, the Kids First Act increases funding for SCHIP without raising taxes and without budget gimmicks.
The Kids First Act truly puts kids first, eliminating nearly all adults from this program designed for children so that more children can be covered. The Kids First Act mirrors the Senate alternative introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Republican Minority Whip John Kyl of Arizona. It reauthorizes the program through FY2013 and increases state allotments, allowing millions of new low income children to be covered.
I offered this alternative to ensure that we build on the past successes of SCHIP by working to ensure we put poor children first.