My unpublished letter to Bham News on SCHIP (letters must be under 200 words)
I write in response to the editorials concerning President Bush's veto of the reauthorization
(H.R. 976) of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP
) on Sunday's opinion page. In doing so, I will restate the old adage, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." I believe the rhetoric in Sunday's paper is misleading and unfair, and I will state some facts in order to clear up any confusion about the President's decision to veto H.R. 976.
It is nonsense to believe that President Bush does not care about children. Anybody who believes that well-trodden line is either ignorant or naive at best. The fact is that President Bush's budget proposed a 20%,or $5 million expansion in SCHIP
. Senate Republicans proposed a 33% or an $8 million expansion. The "tax and spend" Democrats initially proposed a $50 million expansion. The Democrats and a few Republicans passed a $35 billion expansion that includes illegal immigrants,adults, children already covered by private insurance, and families making up to $83k a year Keep in mind that these prices are expansions and not the price to continue funding the program. Despite these increases, supporters of the veto have been branded, "unChristian
, unsympathetic, and kid-haters." While the debate continued, President Bush quietly signed a bill to continue funding SCHIP
until a compromise is reached.
The President's and my disagreement with the bill has more to do with the content of the bill than whether or not to provide health insurance to underprivileged children. The original mandate for SCHIP
is to provide insurance to poor children, hence the "C" in the name. Lately states have been adding adults and 25 year old children to the SCHIP
program. The administration can take the blame for this because they approved the adult waivers. The administration recently changed their policy to make states demonstrate they have covered 95% of underprivileged children in the state before they approve the addition of any adults to the program.
The administration is attempting to return SCHIP
to its original purpose. The bill the President vetoed does not do that. It raises taxes on the poor to provide an entitlement to the middle class(some who already have health insurance) and relaxes the identification procedures so that it is easier for illegal aliens to receive funds. Should we collect more taxes to subsidize the middle class or fewer taxes and subsidize only those who really need help. Think about it this way- should a childless Alabama couple making 50k a year pay higher taxes to provide health insurance for a New York couple making $82k of income when the Alabama couple is having trouble affording health insurance themselves? Fewer taxes and no.
Another negative consequence from this bill is a phenomenon known as "crowd out." When the government provides health insurance, it encourages middle class families to to drop their private insurance and get on the government dole. When this happens, SCHIP
is not providing insurance to more uninsured children but merely replacing the underprivileged with those who can afford insurance. So you see, this bill would not have necessarily covered more low-income kids.
The Democrats plan to pay for this expansion by raising tobacco taxes (big surprise, Democrats raising taxes). The proposed increase is a 61 cent per pack federal tax on cigarettes. A tax on tobacco to fund the excess spending is unfair to smokers, regressive, and will hit low-income people disproportionately harder than others. Since 2000, the average state tobacco tax has more than doubled from 42 cents to 92 cents per pack.
A tobacco tax will not produce the revenues needed to fund such a large expansion in SCHIP
. An increase in tobacco taxes also has the potential to reduce state and federal revenues. New Jersey made the news recently for being the first state to see revenue decline after a tobacco tax increase. Maine's tobacco tax revenue has come in an average of $800k lower than expected per month
since January. A 61 cent per pack increase is expected to shrink state revenues
by approximately $750k.
H.R. 976 is a step in the direction of a government run health care system. Government health care means fewer choices, less efficiency, and higher taxes for the consumer. By less efficient I mean similar to the Canadian or U.K. single-payer systems. In the U.K., most patients who have small strokes or TIAs
are referred by their doctors to specialist clinics. Many wait several weeks before being treated. A study published recently
found that if these patients were treated within 24 hours their risk of having a second more serious stroke in the next 3 months is cut by 80%. A friend of mine recently broke her ankle pretty bad and was taken to the ER in Canada. She said the nurses and doctors were nice but she never got to see an orthopedic doctor face-to-face. He just looked at her X-rays and told the ER doctor what to do. Did this save time? Yes. Is this better for the patient? Probably not. Luckily my friend was flown back home and was in an American O.R. within 24 hours. If you would like to pay higher taxes and give Washington DC and Montgomery control of your health care, go ahead. Just don't complain when you wait weeks to see a doctor and months for a procedure. Once health care is free, watch how expensive it becomes.