SCHIP Bill, Step Toward Universal Government Health Care
- 1 October 2007 by Author 0 Comments
SCHIP Bill, Step Toward Universal Government Health Care
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 10/07/07
Emotion versus logic. The dichotomy of the two is inescapable in many aspects of our lives, yet rarely as conspicuously obvious as it was this week when President Bush vetoed the expansion of the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) bill. The faceoff between the President and Congress over the expanded funding for the program also aptly illustrates the falsehood of President Bill Clinton’s comment in 1996 when he stated that “The era of big government is over.” He really needs to talk with his wife about that!
Originally established by the Republican Congress in 1997, SCHIP was intended to insure children of families who do not qualify for Medicaid but hadn’t the resources to buy their own health insurance. The legislation vetoed by the President this week was intended to significantly alter the role of the program, and was correctly vetoed.
When initiated in 1997, the incomes of eligible families generally did not exceed 200 percent of the poverty level. It was designed to help those with low incomes provide the health coverage for their children that they cannot otherwise afford. And it’s been effective in doing so.
The proposed expansion of the program would have increased spending by $35 billion over 5 years, allowing for families making more than 400 percent above the poverty line eligible for the program. For example, in the state of New York, a family of four earning $83,000 per year would have qualified for the program. I would suspect that even in New York a family with that income level could afford some health insurance. It’s all a matter of priorities: is another car payment worth more to a family than insuring the family’s health? It shouldn’t be, but regardless, it’s not the role of government to make tax payers foot the bill for middle-income families, paying for their health insurance so they can buy another car. Further, implementation in some states includes adult coverage, which was never intended by SCHIP, hence the term “Children” in its title.
In other words, in just ten years the program has gone from filling it’s intended purpose as a safety net for children of low-income families, to being a middle-class entitlement. The last thing we need from a government spending perspective is more entitlements, increasing the control and role of government and increasing demand for tax revenue, while diluting what is arguably the best health care system in the world.
Also, the proposed expansion would have significantly shifted the insurance coverage from private insurers to tax-payer supported coverage for those who qualify under the expanded parameters of SCHIP. That is a surefire way to increase inefficiency and decrease quality.
It reminds me of when Senator Robert F. Kennedy was running for President in 1968, he was asked by some medical students in Indiana “Who is going to pay for your socialized medical plan?” Famously, the Senator responded, “You will!” That should serve as a not-so-gentle reminder as we observe some of the comments by the current crop of Presidential candidates who think it should be the government’s role to control health care in America, which constitutes about 17% of our Gross Domestic Product.
Government is rarely the answer to market based components within our economy, although it’s been proven that government can provide an environment that is conducive to more universal access to our top-ranked health care system. The Medicare Prescription Drug program, so heavily criticized by conservatives because it cost too much and by liberals because President Bush proposed it, has apparently struck a good balance between efficiency and universality. The program has actually cost $180 billion less than anticipated just four years into the program because of the efficiencies and competitiveness induced by government’s proactive role in the program.
However, the efficiency comes from the private sector’s involvement and competitiveness in the industry, not because government operations. You can bet that if the government had simply established the program and run it, it would probably be about as efficient as FEMA has proven to be.
It appears that the intention behind expanding the program beyond the purview and intentions of SCHIP as originally established was to move incrementally closer to a universal health care system, a la “Hillarycare.” Gratefully the President saw that effort for what it was. Even Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ) concedes as much, calling the plan, “The next step toward universal health care for all Americans.”
The program is efficacious in providing the needed health care insurance for disadvantaged children. But it shouldn’t be expanded to cover adults, or provide another government entitlement, especially into the middle class as a step toward governmental universal health care.
The tugs on our emotions provided by expanded SCHIP Congressional proponents parading children in front of the news cameras must be tempered by the facts associated with the bill. Don’t fall for the “it’s for the children” line so frequently employed. The disadvantaged are covered well by the program and deserves to be funded, but not with the expansion of benefits as passed by the Congress. Logic prevails over emotion yet again.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.