Despite the fact that many government health programs can save money and lives, Republicans are still trying to chip away at the safety net for the least fortunate. Recently, they turned to incentives designed to help children gain access to better health care.
As part of an effort to reduce health spending by $115 billion, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted last week to cut $400 million from a program designed to make it easier for children in lower-income families to gain insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and offer bonuses to states that see increases. According to Politico, 23 states have received bonus money for enrolling more children, with 16 of those boosting enrollment by more than 10 percent. While the proposal’s immediate future is dim, opponents say there is a chance it could resurface later on:
Although the Senate is unlikely to pick up this measure, [Executive Director of Families USA Ron] Pollack said he’s concerned it could reappear when Congress returns after the elections with a full plate of legislation in need of offsets. “When you start with the House-passed budget and efforts like this, while it’s clear that they’re not going to become law, it’s just part of an opening bell about how the Republicans in the House want to handle a larger effort that will take place some time after the elections,” he said.
The lead sponsor of this bill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), claimed weakening the eligibility requirements to boost coverage encouraged more people to try and game the system. But as Politico noted, the study he cited to back up his claim did not include any data specific to the bonus program Republicans are seeking to cut.
Here is what CHIP actually has done: It has helped cut the national rate of uninsured children to the lowest recorded level ever, keeping millions from losing all health coverage, and pushing long-term health costs lower. The program Republicans want to cut, meanwhile, paid out close to $300 million in bonuses last year alone and has already encouraged states to streamline their enrollment processes, eliminating bureaucratic waste.