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Ryan Statement on Veto Override Vote

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October 18, 2007 | Kate Matus ((202) 226-7326) | comments

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today failed to override the President’s recent veto of flawed and costly legislation to greatly expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). While Congressman Paul Ryan supports and cosponsored a separate bill to extend the existing program, he has major concerns about the approach taken in the SCHIP expansion bill that the President vetoed. As a result, he voted to sustain the President’s veto. Ryan made the following statement about this vote: 

“All of us share the goal for every child to have good, reliable health coverage. Unfortunately, this SCHIP expansion plan takes the wrong approach – making more and more Americans dependent on government for their health care and driving people who already have health insurance into this taxpayer-funded government program. With roughly 48,000 low-income Wisconsin children still lacking coverage, Congress shouldn’t be expanding the program to people who already have insurance. Federal health-care entitlement spending is already rising at an unsustainable rate and this fiscally irresponsible bill would make the problem worse over the long run – a debt burden our kids shouldn’t have to bear,” Ryan said.

“I believe we can find a better way to help the uninsured and make sure that affordable health coverage is within every American’s reach. First, reform should be comprehensive. We have to start looking at the whole picture – health care, Medicare, and the tax code. If you try to fix one apart from the others, any short-term benefits will quickly be overwhelmed by the other problems that haven’t been addressed. Second, it must provide security. We want to ensure that everyone has access to coverage, and that includes low-income families, middle-income families, children, and people with medical conditions who get labeled as ‘uninsurable.’ Third, reform must enhance our economic competitiveness. Health care reform has to ease – not add to – the upward pressure on medical costs. Finally, individual ownership of health care coverage should play a critical role. We wouldn’t let someone else choose our cars or appliances or what we’re going to have for dinner tonight, and yet with something as vital and personal as health coverage, that’s exactly what many Americans do: they let employers or the government decide what kind of health coverage they should have,” Ryan said. 

“If Congress can put politics aside, we can make progress on real reform that addresses the overall crisis of the uninsured. In the meantime, we need to extend the existing children’s health insurance program, so that it can insure the low-income children it was created to help in the first place,” Ryan said. 

Among its flaws, the SCHIP expansion bill the President vetoed:

  • Misleads taxpayers about the long-term cost of the plan. Without the budget gimmick of dropping funding abruptly after five years, the true cost of the bill would likely be more than $113 billion over ten years.

  • Drives about 2 million individuals who currently have private health insurance to drop their insurance and move into the government-run program, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

  • Would enable expansion of SCHIP beyond the low-income children for whom it was originally intended to middle-income families and allows states to establish their own eligibility standards – meaning that states could expand coverage for higher-income families by excluding certain family income from eligibility tests. In particular states, such as New Jersey – which could still be allowed to cover families with incomes over $70,000 – the problem of using tax dollars to subsidize middle-income families is especially clear.

  • Makes it simple for illegal immigrants to fraudulently qualify for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs. Current law requires that states must determine whether people who apply for Medicaid and SCHIP are U.S. citizens. States can satisfy this requirement by having applicants show specified types of identity documents such as drivers’ licenses or birth certificates. The proposed SCHIP expansion bill weakens the current rules – allowing states to disregard the requirement to review actual identity documents and instead submit the names and Social Security numbers of applicants to the Social Security Administration (SSA). As the SSA Commissioner has indicated, this new provision would fail to identify and therefore prevent some people from illegally getting health care benefits through Medicaid or SCHIP. This includes illegal immigrants who are fraudulently using another person’s valid name and Social Security number.

  • Attempts to pay for an expanding government program with a shrinking revenue stream. The number of smokers in the U.S. has been declining for decades, and increasing the tobacco tax will cause tobacco use to decrease even more sharply.

  • Includes at least one pork-barrel earmark (directing taxpayer funding to a health care facility located in Tennessee freshman representative Steve Cohen’s district) – despite the bill being certified as “earmark-free”.

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