Senator: Government Shouldn't Fund Poor Children's Health Care Needs

“I have a rough time wanting to spend …trillions of dollars to help people who… won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”

A Republican senator said he was reluctant to help sick children from low-income families who “won’t lift a finger” to help themselves. But he doesn’t mind giving the rich a tax break for no reason.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) replied to a question from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on the Senate floor about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a government-funded health care plan for low-income children and pregnant women. The plan expired Oct. 1 and the Congress has yet to renew it.

The Utah senator said the program would ultimately be funded but the fact that right now there is no money for it is the problem.

“Let me tell you something: We’re going to do CHIP. There’s no question about it in my mind. It’s got to be done the right way. But we, the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore,” Hatch said.

He then tried to reduce sympathy for the people who rely on the program by criticizing them.

“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything,” Hatch said, thereby implying the 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women who depend on CHIP are lazy and incompetent.

The statement comes as a bit of a shock considering Hatch helped create the bill in 1997, a fact he reminded the Congress about.

Since its expiration, the program, which costs in excess of $14 billion, is currently surviving on emergency funding, which will be exhausted by all states in 2018.

According to Georgetown University, the six states of Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon predict their funds will run out by January 2018 while six other states — Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington —will take action to inform families their coverage is going to be cut off even if some funds remain.

Some states can keep children sufficiently covered through Medicaid programs or the Affordable Care Act’s coverage, but the options are not available everywhere.

What’s worse is that less than a week ago, Hatch, who said government has no funds to help vulnerable children, was pushing the rich tax cut bill through Senate, which will add about $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

The tax break disproportionately benefits the wealthy and big corporations, and how the government can compensate for the deficit when there are already issues in renewing a $14 billion health care program remains a mystery.

The tax bill passed during the weekend.

Meanwhile, Hatch’s comment drew widespread criticism over his devil-may-care attitude toward CHIP even as he rooted for the tax break.










Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

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