Within hours of the 290-135 vote in the House of Representatives for the $32.8 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, approved by the Senate last week, President Obama signed the bill into law.
SCHIP is designed to help working families who cannot afford private health insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid healthcare coverage for the poor; on the surface it sounds good but with flexibility at the state level in determining income qualifications, the result has been many families who can afford health insurance drop out and use the Medicaid system instead.
I suppose if all you want is for children to have health insurance, then it doesn’t matter. But just where is all the money going to come from?
Since he is now in a position to well-afford it, our sometime-smoking President is using a 61-cent increase in the per-pack federal tax on cigarettes to help pay for this bill. That’s a $6.10 per carton price increase, effective immediately. The new bill also taxes all other tobacco and tobacco-related products, and redefines “roll-your-own-tobacco” to include cigars or cigar wrappers.
Now, if you have a bit of land and think maybe growing your own might not be a bad idea, forget it. There’s an immediate tax on “any tobacco products, cigarette paper, or tubes produced in the United States at any place other than the premises of a lawful manufacturer of such products”. Which means, of course, you are no longer free to do as you wish in your own home (that place from which the new Attorney General would like to remove your guns) or on your own property (even though owning tobacco plants isn’t illegal).
But I digress.
Apparently our elected representatives are about as good with financials as Geithner and Daschle. The published financial impact analysis of this bill “estimates” that it will create a reduction in our unfathomable 10.7 TRILLION DOLLAR deficit of maybe a couple billion dollars.
I want some of what those beancounters are drinking. As the number of smokers continues to decrease, so, too, will this new-found revenue. Sure, the cost of health care spent on smoking-related illnesses will drop by some small amount, but the costs associated with cancer and heart disease and obesity continue to rise no matter the decline in the number of smokers, and we’ll continue to insure more and more children who already have coverage, thereby moving the business of healthcare right into the hands of those who’ve been humping for socialized medicine all along. Replete with the government telling you what it will and will not pay for from a laundry list of what it (and its special-interest medical lobbyists) considers “cost-effective” treatments. Your health-care choices will no longer be driven by what you or even your doctor wants, even if it’s only a quality of life matter, but by what brings the biggest revenue to a few corporations.
Oh, and by the way, the costs of SCHIP are shared by the states, so while non-smokers are already paying twice for this wonderful program with their state and federal taxes, smokers get to pay for it three times. As a minority 21% of the U.S. population, that smacks of discrimination, too.