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By Alice Bradley

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.

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • This – and the healthcare issue in general – is one of my hot button issues. It really pisses me off. Why is it so hard to understand that in an affluent society, everyone deserves affordable healthcare? (And education, too.)
    We have insurance through my husband’s job. But many people I know do not. And they just can’t afford individual health insurance. For instance – college-educated single mom, with MS. Works THREE jobs (nanny, church administrator, medical transcriptionist), but all of them are under 30 hours, so no health insurance. (And no, she can’t find a job that allows her health insurance and lets her be home to take care of her son after school.)
    What about her life makes her not worthy of healthcare? Or the many hundreds of thousands of others in the same boat?

  • Chimera

    I was covered under Medicaid as a child for a disability. The forms to fill out each year were amazingly complicated. I’m an MSW and I am always amazed by how much time it takes to get kids covered and how difficult it is to get all of the information and to put it in the right places. This was for families that had most of the information in hand. Good luck if the kids had been moving, families had had multiple jobs, or an alternative living situation. Getting 95% of families covered for the reasons that you listed is a task that could take forever.
    I got extremely sick this year and was lucky enough to have the best insurance I’ve ever heard of. Otherwise, we would have thousands of dollars in debt, would have defaulted on our loans, lost our apartment, our cars, and probably my sanity. Even with my health coverage our savings are shot. It’s a shame that it costs too much to get sick in this country. Some preventative medicine huh? It frightens me to think about what would have happened if I had a child that this was happening to.

  • amy

    This makes me forever grateful to have been born in Canada. Truly. Luck of the draw.

  • Rachel

    Living in Canada I have to admit that I read this and am dumbfounded that the general population in the US thinks it is okay that millions of people are wandering around without access to healthcare (at least not without bankrupting them). It is especially strange to me that the government that claims to be falling biblical dictates in other party platforms it runs on is the same one saying providing help to the sick and to your children is not a priority.

  • edj

    Oh do not get me started on American health care! It’s pitiful. And scary.
    Can’t wait to get back overseas…developing countries may not have decent medical care, but at least they’re not hypocritical about it.
    And I, for one, do not plan to participate in National Kick Floppy-Eared Puppies Day–just as a matter of principle.

  • UGH!
    We are those people who are paying $13,000+ per year in insurance because we make too much for our child (and ourselves) to be covered. But not enough that paying a solid 1/4 of our income on insurance doesn’t completely suck ass.
    We were without insurance for over a year and that was the scariest, most depressing year I’ve ever had. Every second of every day was spent in fear that someone would slip and fall and break something or that a knife would slice a finger instead of a carrot.
    I become insane when I think about this subject.

  • Unbelievable, isn’t it? I lived in Europe in a “developing” country for four years and had fewer health care worries there than I’ve ever had in my native U.S. How can 10 million Czechs afford it but somehow we can’t?

  • A nationalized health insurance system is indeed a *gasp!* when you’re on a rigid neocon agenda that has you so far up the rectums of big businesses that anything short of full privitization would betray your promises to them.
    I’m nauseated.
    (And a wee bit annoyed – can you tell?)

  • Also keep in mind that anytime a person has a lapse in insurance coverage, such as the one-year Bush mandate above, they will then fall into a HIPAA loophole which voids the pre-existing condition clause. This happened to my son when Missouri’s MC+ program dumped him, then let me re-enroll him a few days later so long as I paid a small premium based on my income. It was still a good deal and I didn’t complain at the time. But then when I was able to add my son to my employer-provided insurance plan, I discovered that our provider would not continue to pay for treatments due to the fact that he had a pre-existing condition. HIPAA only applies when there has been no lapse in coverage for 18 consecutive months.
    Blunt and Bush love fetuses but are just fine with the suffering of small children. Nice.

  • I am optimistic about many things but health care is not one of them. I don’t think there will be a radical change in the health care system in this country until the middle class is affected directly. When middle class Americans start struggling to pay their copays or their health care costs outpace their cost of living increases, they’ll stand up and demand change. I really think it will have to come to that and it is sad on so many levels.

  • Brandy

    As a Canadian I am forever grateful that I can get medical care whenever I need of charge. I don’t understand how our system can be seen as a bad one as I’ve heard it be argued as.
    Health should be a right not a privilege.

  • Thanks for covering this. It’s so important and Our Leaders need to know that not only are they pissing off the entire electorate with the ridiculous healthcare, they’re also dumbfounding the Canadians. (Sorry, couldn’t resist. I can understand how you’re all up there going, “this is insane, eh?” and we are totally jealous of you.)
    On a more serious note, though, it’s apparent to me that healthcare companies still don’t understand what we’re mad about. I just got some shiny collateral from my provider saying how I could “keep myself healthier.” I already try to keep myself healthy, but how about taking all those shiny pennies I send to you every month and paying for my problems when I need to call you? I don’t need collateral, I need coverage. Good post, Alice!

  • Universal health care… Why can’t we as a people mobilize and make it happen?
    You know, it’s good that Sicko brought this issue to light so recently. It’s unfortunate that the movie had some inaccuracies (which, of course, get highlighted by the opposition as a reason to discredit the ENTIRE movie), because there is A LOT about the movie which is VERY, DISTURBINGLY, and SADLY accurate, and which speaks volumes about the sort of society we live in. It seems that letting big business make money off of people’s pain and suffering is par for the course, and trying to change that corrupt system results in massive media opposition, because the people in power benefit the most from this scheme, and they happen to control the media as well (through advertising revenue, if not directly).
    What hope do we have? Ideas?

  • Heather

    Okay, let me first say that I echo your indignation and I love SCHIP.
    But I have to say one thing- I’m against hiking cigarette taxes to fund it. I say add a more consistent tax that targets the excessively wealthy (maybe on luxury items, like private jets for execs?). But taxing cigarettes to pay for healthcare causes two problems. First, all across the country municipalities are making it increasingly difficult to smoke, so as the number of smokers decreases this program will have funding problems again. Second, this is just another way to tax poor people. People living below the poverty line are more likely to smoke cigarettes than people above it ( It seems silly to me to tax people who can’t afford healthcare to pay for healthcare.

  • E.L.H.

    I’m hesitant to post this.
    Once people have made up their minds that Person X is a scumbag, they generally won’t be swayed. Anyone trying to convince them otherwise is also relegated to the scumbag bin.
    In this case, I know I’m responding to several people who all already agree with each other! Not a good idea to disagree. Especially when they include Suniverse “I become insane when I think about this subject” and Laura “It really pisses me off.”
    Lordy. I have no chance.
    Yet…yet…ARGH, I can’t help myself.
    I do NOT want government supported health-care, and I am not evil. They do not want to kick flop-eared puppies. (My flop-eared pup is fourteen years old now. But even when she was a pup and piddling on the floor, we didn’t want to kick her.)
    We folks merely believe, rightly or wrongly, that the overall number of deaths of innocents and malpractices and health-injuring delays is lower, overall, under a more market-driven system.
    The reasons? I guess there are a lot of them, some emotional, some more rational.
    I don’t trust government with the education of my children, for example. So I’m not about to trust them with their health. I want my doctor beholden to me, not to the government. The disaster of British Public Health looks a lot like the disaster of American Public Education, to me. (But I know some folks don’t much mind the latter. So perhaps I should use a different argument.)
    Choice is important to me: School Choice, Healthcare Choice. I guess I’d be okay with something like a Healthcare Voucher System.
    When a person makes the choice “Do I go to the doctor for sniffles, or not?” or “Do I take antibiotics for what is probably a virus, or not?” I think they should have their wallet in mind. After all, it’s going to cost someone’s wallet something. The person making the decision ought to be forced to take that fact into account. And if it’s their wallet, they will. If they’re using someone else’s dollars, they will go far more often. And everyone’s health care costs will rise tremendously. (That they are already way high doesn’t mean they can’t get worse.)
    I believe in the “no such thing as a free lunch” idea. People in Canada may love their healthcare system, but their after-tax incomes suffer for it. I think they may suffer more for it than they would if they just bought it themselves.
    Or, maybe not, ’cause the taxes aren’t the only price they pay. They also pay in wait-time. It’s get your tumor removed today, in the U.S., or in eleven weeks’ time, in the Yukon. A health system with long days of waiting is probably cheaper than one with instant service. So perhaps the tax cost is less for that reason, but you still pay in a different way; there’s still no free lunch.
    I like Medical Savings Accounts. An MSA, together with low-cost insurance for catastrophic expense coverage, together with some kind of a voucher system for kids’ coverage which could only be spent on medical expenses, would be ideal, I think. People would know they were making their decisions from a limited resource, and they wouldn’t over-buy.
    Maybe part of the reason U.S. healthcare is so expensive now is because we’re always getting leeched off by other countries. I’d guess the whole northern half of Mexico frequents American emergency rooms for their urgent care. It’s pretty popular to enter the U.S., give birth, and go away (or not!), so maybe we’re footing the OB bills for a pretty high percentage of the world’s mamas.
    American pharmaceuticals invent most of the new drugs on the planet. They pay for the research by charging high prices to people in the U.S., and low prices to everyone else. Why do they have to charge low prices to everyone else? Because other governments threaten them with stealing their formula and making cheap or free duplicate drugs if they don’t sell to their populations below cost. In the U.S., where “Intellectual Property” is protected by legions of lawyers, that won’t happen. So Americans get charged a lot, otherse get charged a little; we pay for the world’s R & D.
    One other remark made was about Biblical Dictates, or Doing The Lord’s Will. I want to do that; it’s only right to help poor people pay for their health care, so…I do. I help with my church’s health ministry, I’m looking into their quilting ministry, I give to people individually and through charitable organizations.
    But I just don’t feel right about doing it through government means, because the government uses a police force, with guns, to take up all those taxes.
    I’m sorry to sound melodramatic. But when I give to charity, or even shame my next-door neighbor into doing the same, I’m doing something by my Choice. I think that’s important. Even my next-door neighbor is free to choose, if she gives or not.
    But when I vote for charity to be collected through taxes, I’m saying, “Don’t give my neighbor the choice. Take it from her, whether she likes it or not.” And I just feel bad about that.
    To me, it’s the difference between Jesus saying, “Feed the hungry from your own pantry, and the pantries of other willing donors” and Jesus saying, “Feed the hungry with cans from your neighbor’s pantry, whether your neighbor wants to part with them or not.” My church doesn’t talk much about can-drives in ancient Palestine, but somehow I can’t picture Jesus saying the latter.
    Well, that’s all I have to say. If you insist, I’ll crawl off to bin for evil persons, now!

    We’re one of those “not poor, but not insured by our employer and we have a kid who has a weird metabolic thingy and so private insurance costs us out the wazoo” families that SCHIP is dandy for.
    We pay a portion of our CHIP premium. I still pay out the wazoo for my own insurance.
    Anyway, I don’t know whether this is kosher or not, but here’s our story.
    and here
    All is well now. For now. But cripes…I hate the health insurance industry and I write that in the memo of every check I send them.

  • I can’t understand this Republican mentality. This isn’t some liberal hand-holding crap, this is some poor kids, they can’t help how much money their families have, they’re not out there panhandling instead of buckling down and getting a job. Universal health care is where it’s AT, baby. Someday, right? When we catch up to the apparently Far More Civilized Canada.

  • There are only two words I can summon for Gee-Dub’s attitude towards healthcare issues in America:
    And for the religiously-minded in the crowd:
    I am diabetic. The disparity in the quality of care (frequency of doctor’s visits, access to education, medication, and equipment) for those with decent insurance and those without for this INCREASINGLY COMMON, TREATABLE, disease is appalling.
    When I got an insulin pump, I gave my spare syringes and an obsolete glucose meter and strips to my local county health. Apparently, at my local Co. Health Authority, they frequently don’t have enough strips and syringes to give indigent patients, and my showing up with supplies for three months for one person was like Santa showing up in July.
    Like I said. Sinful.
    Health care might cost us in terms of dollar amounts. But allowing children *and* adults go without these things in the state where Diabetes Company A-#1 Eli Lilly is based costs us far more morally.

  • Having been on the American insurance system and now we’re back living in the UK and under NHS I think I’d rather have the NHS waiting lists and all.
    At least here, for the people who have cancer and other serious disease’s we don’t get treated like third class citizens. I read blogs of people in the US who are treated like dirt because they don’t have insurance when they go to the so called government hospitals for treatment. It horrifies me that human beings can and are treated this way.
    Personally I think if you can afford health coverage, the medical treatment in the USA is second to none, but god help anyone who doesn’t.

  • Suniverse: I have insurance and what you describe also makes me insane.
    We are all afraid and trapped by our need for insurance and the insecurity of getting it.
    This system is insane. The highest spending on health care in the developed world and the highest infant mortality rate to go along with that?
    Yeah, you Bush-lovers–who cares about some kid with diabetes whose illness isn’t managed well and who will be blind by 50? Not your problem, right.
    Amy, when will Canada invade us? Please! Invade, take over, I’ll happily eat poultine to stop this madness. OK, maybe not happily.

  • Alice, don’t be alarmed but I think I may love you a little! I took time off my job (in health care) to go work for my union to get SCHIP fully funded. I love my job, but I just think this is too important to leave up to people who cannot pronounce “nuclear.” Here in Oregon, we have the Healthy Kids ballot measure coming up this November, which will give universal health care to all kids under 18, and fund it with a tobacco tax. (I was hoping for a tax on fast food, but nope.) Thanks for keeping this on the front burner.

  • This makes my blood boil, too. I am willing and able to throw back my $600 tax cut to contribute to a health care program for those who aren’t lucky enough to have insurance, like me. Why can’t I and others like me band together and insist on it? If I were on the other side of the fence, I would certainly want the wealthier folks to look out for me. Do unto others, and all that.

  • Erica

    I’m so ridiculously glad that I’m Canadian. WHOOH! National Healthcare! It’s not perfect but at least if you need to see a doctor all you have to worry about it wait times not if you can afford to see a doctor or not.

  • I work in healthcare in the US. I believe the bottom line should not be financial when it comes to something as fundamental as a person’s right to get treatment. Bankrupting someone when they’re dealing with a family member fighting to live, and sometimes dying is draconian. I see it every day, and even with people who have health insurance (remember a $1million cap on payments does not go very far these days with a head injury).
    I’m also British, and apparently unaware of our ‘disaster of British Public Health’. I agree both systems are inherently flawed, so if that’s the case – can we not agree to take the moral high ground even if it costs more? A child’s right to healthcare should not be determined by his/her accident of birth.

  • Bri

    As a student, who has been living without health insurance for the last ten years, I am one broken bone or car accident away from losing everything. When I became unexpectedly pregnant this spring, I scrambled to figure out the state health care system so that I could see a doctor. I had to make do with my college health services when it looked like I would miscarry. I was still waiting to hear from the state when the school nurse warned me that if I started to have intense pain on one side I should go to the hospital immediately because it was an indication of an ectopic pregnancy. This was even more terrifying because I couldn’t afford to see a doctor who could have told me what was happening with my body. There are millions of women in this country who struggle with these decisions every day. Thanks for looking out, Mr. President.

  • Amy B

    To me, it’s the difference between Jesus saying, “Feed the hungry from your own pantry, and the pantries of other willing donors” and Jesus saying, “Feed the hungry with cans from your neighbor’s pantry, whether your neighbor wants to part with them or not.”
    E.L.H., it could not have been said any better!

  • liz

    ELH and Amy B: You haven’t done your research. Illegal immigrants tend to pay into the system (sales taxes, payroll taxes) and DO NOT tend to use services (health care, food stamps) because they are afraid of deportation. So they are a net GAIN for our governments.
    In this country, unless you are supremely wealthy, you are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Just ask Moreena (
    Don’t you ever, EVER think that it can’t happen to you. It can. It does.
    Medical crises are the number one cause of bankruptcy.
    Children in this country die from lack of basic health care – because their parents can’t afford it. Doctors are hesitant to treat anyone without insurance. Insurance is prohibitive if not gotten through an employer.
    We need universal health care. We need it now. If you don’t agree, then you’re not paying attention.
    Over 80 MILLION people in the US were without insurance sometime in the last two years. 48 MILLION are currently without insurance.
    But you think that being able to pick and choose your doctor is more important than the lives and health of your fellow citizens and especially their children. You really are special.