(Chicago, Illinois - October 5, 2007) On October 3, President George W. Bush vetoed a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) approved by Congress the week before. The president deems the measure too costly and a federalization of health care inconsistent with the program's mission.
Created in 1997, SCHIP provides health insurance coverage for families with too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough income to afford private insurance. SCHIP matching funds are set to expire unless Congress is able to override the president's veto or arrive at a compromise measure he will support.
The reauthorization measure would fund the program's expansion to non-poor families by increasing the federal excise tax on tobacco products.
The following comments on the White House's move are from Trevor Martin, director of government relations for The Heartland Institute, and Steve Stanek, a Heartland research fellow and managing editor of Budget & Tax News, a monthly Heartland publication.
You may quote from this statement or contact Martin or Stanek directly for further comment.
Government Relations Director
"Taxes on tobacco products are already high, and structured in such a way so as to be not only unfair to smokers, but also (and especially) to the poor.
"Tobacco taxes are, by their nature, a declining source of revenue, thanks to government's insistence that the number of tobacco users decrease. Ironically, governments continue to rely upon the revenue generated from this dwindling group of taxpayers.
"Raising taxes to fund a program whose funding allocation is already misspent is not sound public policy. For example, some states allow SCHIP participation for families with incomes up to $72,000--and 14 states allow adults to participate."
Managing Editor, Budget & Tax News
"People need to stop listening to the demagoguery and look at the facts. One key fact is this: The Congressional Budget Office estimates 50 percent of new SCHIP funds would go to children in families who already have private insurance. Many economists say the figure could be even higher. This SCHIP expansion aims to subsidize solidly middle-income families who already have insurance for their children. It is not aimed at children in working-poor families as the SCHIP program was intended.
"Furthermore, it is absurd to enact government programs that rely on smoking tax revenue even as tax and health policies discourage smoking. The CBO and U.S. Treasury Department have estimated a revenue loss to the states of $1.07 billion to $1.2 billion a year, as the higher price for cigarettes cuts consumption and prompts smokers to choose low-cost off-brands or turn to black markets."
For more information about SCHIP, please see:
Research & Commentary on the State Children's Health Insurance Program http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=21187
Research & Commentary on the Federal Excise Tax on Tobacco
"Soaking Smokers to Fund Child Health Insurance Is All Wet"
"Congress Taxing Poor People for Middle-Class Votes"
"SCHIP Needs to Focus on Children"
"What Are They Smoking?"
"SCHIP Is for Children in Name Only"
"The Hijacking of Children's Health"
"Heritage Luncheon Offers Alternatives to SCHIP Expansion"
"SCHIP Reauthorization Bill Moves Forward"
For further information about The Heartland Institute, please contact Harriette Johnson, media relations manager, at 312/377-4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.