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Monday, October 1, 2007
Expansion of health care for kids unwise
CONGRESS VS. BUSH | Despite political spin, there are valid reasons for veto
September 30, 2007
BY STEVE HUNTLEY
You'd think we're still in the 1990s living with the Clinton administration the way the word children is being bandied about in Washington these days.
Here in 2007, the use of children for political purposes hangs over the understandable, well-meaning desire to make sure uninsured kids have health-care coverage. At issue is the passage by Congress of a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. President Bush promises to veto it, and the House doesn't appear to have the votes to override him.
How can anyone be against health insurance for children?
That's the reductionist and nakedly political spin being put on this fight by Democrats. And the bill has plenty of backing from nervous Republicans in Congress facing re-election in swing states and districts next year. They understand how this issue can be melted down to a devastating sound bite. The only countervailing sound bite -- that this is a step toward government-run or socialized medical care -- sounds like a tepid response, however true it is.
The reasons for opposing this expansion of the program, as Bush does, can't be boiled down to a 15-second television commercial. But they are valid criticisms, so let's take a look at some of them.
The program, enacted by a Republican Congress in 1997, was designed to provide health-care coverage for children in families making too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for private coverage, deemed to be households making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Some states have gamed the system to provide coverage to families making more than that. For instance, Illinois adheres to the original standard, $41,300, while in neighboring Missouri the program is open to families earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level, or nearly $62,000. Two-thirds of the funding comes from the federal government, so these are your tax dollars at work. Wanna guess which state, Illinois or Missouri, contributes more to the federal coffers? (Illinois offers coverage to children above the 200 percent level under Gov. Blagojevich's All Kids program, but that portion is state funded.)
The congressionally approved expansion would enshrine the 300 percent standard. That would offer government-funded insurance to families earning above the median family income in 2005 of $56,000. Furthermore, New York wants to make the cutoff at 400 percent.