Between last September and December, State Policy Network bloggers invested a lot fighting Congress’ irresponsible effort to drive more kids out of health plans that their parents (or at least their parent’s employers) choose, and into government-controlled programs (SCHIP), by increasing the Federal Poverty Line cut-off under which kids qualify for this welfare program.
In August, the Congressional Budget Office toted up the numbers and reported that the increase would violate the “pay go” rules that Speaker Pelosi trumpeted as her commitment to fiscal responsibility, by adding $1.6 billion of spending. Noting that the program already costs $35 billion, Peter Nelson of the Center of the American Experiment was skeptical that the CBO report would actually stop Congress’ effort to rope more kids into government dependency.
Nevertheless, the CBO report caused the Democrats to put SCHIP expansion into the deep freeze. This was remarkable. After all, President Bush’s December veto of H.R. 3963 barely held up, encouraging the Democratic majority to look out for an opportunity to have another “at bat”.
Now that September has rolled around again, left-wing bloggers are wondering why the Dems left this “low-hanging fruit to rot on the vine” (as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow put it yesterday.) I think the best explanation is that they do not have to re-vote expansion: It’s expanding quite steadily without legislative action.
At the same time as last year’s Congressional battle, President Bush and Secretary Leavitt took executive action, issuing regulations requiring states to enroll 95% of eligible low-income children in SCHIP before capturing kids from higher-income families. States are taking advantage of claims that the new regulations are illegal.
California leads other states by just ignoring the rules, and expanding SCHIP anyway. The Administration has decided not to enforce, but keep writing checks.
It’s time to get a grip: SCHIP hurts kids, by increasing the fragmentation of health insurance and “cycling” them in and out of insurance status according to their parents’ incomes. The Administration needs to enforce its own rules.