Today, as the House debated legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover 11 million children, House Republicans warned that an expansion would “fund benefits for illegal immigrants,” not “cover poor children” and “push children with private insurance into state insurance.” Watch it:
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and his Republican colleagues argued that since the original 1997 bill targeted children with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), any extension of the program should honor the original threshold and “cover poor children first.”
But as a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute concludes, since 1996, “health insurance costs have risen so much that [even] for families at 300 percent of the FPL, ESI [Employer Sponsored Insurance] premiums for family coverage now make up 19 percent of income on average for a family of four“:
Put differently, ESI coverage is less affordable for families at 300 percent of the FPL today than it was for families at 200 percent of the FPL when SCHIP was passed.
Indeed, health insurance premiums have grown faster than paychecks, placing health insurance out of reach for many working class families. As an article in today’s LA Times points out, “at least 44 states are facing budget shortfalls over the next two years” and many “have been scrambling for months to cut aid to schools, universities and, increasingly, residents who rely on the state for medical care.”
But as a growing number of families are losing their public or private health insurance coverage, conservatives seem more concerned about Americans being forced-into public insurance plans and the nearly non-existent threat of illegal immigrant infiltration.
Undocumented immigrants or immigrants in the US on a temporary basis have always been ineligible for SCHIP and there is no evidence that undocumented immigrants are currently enrolled in the program. In fact, in a recent survey, “six states spent $16.6 million in state and federal taxpayer money to administer the Medicaid citdoc requirement, and identified only 8 undocumented immigrants, who likely would have been identified anyway through existing immigration documentation requirements.”
The House passed SCHIP expansion by a vote of 289 to 139.