IM IN UR GUVMINT/ MESSIN UP UR KEDZ INSHURINZ.
Way back in 1997, the Clinton administration approved a program called State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. SCHIP is a partnership between federal and state governments that provides health insurance to children whose families make too much for Medicaid but too little for private insurance. The program was created to address the increasing numbers of uninsured children, and was the largest expansion in coverage for children since Medicaid began in the 1960s. By all accounts, it’s done a great deal of good, but it could do a lot more.
Now ten years old, SCHIP is up for renewal. And it’s in trouble.
I wrote about this in my Mother’s Day post in May, about how so many kids are uninsured or underinsured, and we need to make sure that the SCHIP program budget is approved, etc. etc., and what, did you write to your state representative, like I said you should? No, you probably had some pancakes and went back to sleep. And look what happened. NICE.
No, no, it wasn’t your fault. Don’t look at me like that. And I bet your state representative probably did everything he or she could. House and Senate representatives from both parties agree that the program needs to be expanded. While SCHIP programs currently cover six million children, another nine million and counting remain uninsured. The House approved a budget that would increase SCHIP funding by $50 billion over five years; the Senate’s version gives SCHIP $35 billion over the same amount of time.
The President, however, doesn’t like SCHIP. He seems to think that increasing the program budget and making it easier for struggling families to get insurance means we’re on our way down a slippery slope towards (gasp!) a nationalized healthcare system. Both the House and Senate budget increases rely on an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, which the President opposes. (Yes, that’s right. He is against making people pay more for cigarettes. He is for keeping more poor children unsinsured. Next, he will approve a new holiday: National Kick Floppy-Eared Puppies Day. Watch for it!)
The budget increase the Bush administration proposes for SCHIP: $5 billion over the course of five years: a laughably small amount, by any standard. In addition, the administration outlined a bold new change to SCHIP policy: children whose family income is over 250% of the poverty level cannot be covered under state programs until 95% of all children whose families are under200% of the poverty level are. In other words, before the less-poor can get coverage, their poorer counterparts must be taken care of.
Sounds reasonable, right? But according to the Times, getting 95 percent of people in that bracket covered is practically impossible. No state has yet achieved it; the national average is around 72 percent. Many uninsured are simply unaware that such a program exists. Finding them and getting them to apply is an almost Herculean task.
The new standards outlined by the Bush administration don’t just end there. There are increased premiums and co-payments for the higher bracket of eligible families—numbers that must be comparable to private insurance plans. The higher –bracket families are also required to be uninsured for a full year before being eligible for SCHIP. People who are fortunate enough to just barely afford private insurance, in other words, will be penalized for choosing the state-funded program that was created for them in the first place.As we know, many people who can “afford” insurance rates that cost them tens of thousands for each year may well not make that sacrifice. More children than ever will be uninsured or underinsured, all because our president wants to make a point about the evils of nationalized healthcare. And he doesn’t mind sacrificing the well-being of a few milllion children to do it.