While Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate are eager to provide significant tax cuts to the wealthiest among us, many have also claimed that there are insufficient federal funds to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).CHIP began 20 years ago with bipartisan support, and has provided health care to millions of children in families of limited means. Children who get regular check-ups and appropriate medical care when they are ill are more likely to succeed in school and later in life; their families are less likely to be bankrupted by medical bills.
Congress permitted federal funding for the program to lapse in September, and is now waffling over whether we can afford $14 billion annually to help provide health care for children (and, in some states, pregnant women). In contrast, the House has voted to double the exemption for estate taxes from $5.5 million to $11 million per person, and to abolish the tax altogether after 2024. (The Senate version of tax reform would not abolish the tax.) Contrary to claims that the estate tax is a burden on small family farms and businesses, only .2 percent (that’s 2 in 1000) estates are subject to this tax when a taxpayer dies. Approximately 80 family-owned farms or businesses will be subject to the existing estate tax for 2017.
The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that repealing the estate tax will result in more than $172 billion of revenue lost over a decade – a gift to the wealthy that would likely be enough to fund CHIP for 10 years. Last week, Congress did pass a continuing appropriations bill that will keep CHIP funded through the end of 2017 in states with shortfalls, but this is only a short-term fix. In a recent column in the New York Times, a bipartisan team of state governors called on Congress to reauthorize and fund CHIP. As the House and Senate debate versions of tax reform that clearly favor the well-to-do over middle- and lower-income families, we should join the governors in insisting that Congress at least do the right thing for our nation’s children.