Favorite

Greed trumps kids’ insurance 

President Bush has demonstrated that he is not the compassionate conservative he claimed to be in 2000, but on the other hand you have to admit that he takes a back seat to no one in his admiration for private greed.

If the choice is taking away a little profit from insurance companies or leaving hundreds of thousands of children without medical care, he will run with the insurance companies every time. How many poor kids ponied up enough in 2000 or 2004 to be Bush Rangers or Pioneers?

What else accounts for Bush’s promise to veto any appreciable increase in funding for the children’s health insurance programs, including the one that presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee claims as his greatest achievement in public life? Bush’s threat followed a bipartisan vote of the Senate Finance Committee to reauthorize the 10-year-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and expand it to cover an additional 3.6 million children of low-income families over the next five years. Another 50,000 or so Arkansas children would be guaranteed medical care.

The president’s principal reason is that quite a few of those children may be covered now by their families’ private insurance and that making them eligible for the state-run Medicaid program would induce the families to take them off their private insurance plans and switch to SCHIP. Insurance companies, alas, would have to reduce or forego premiums.

Let’s consider the morality of Bush’s position, which his poor Health and Human Services secretary, Mike Leavitt, has the awful job of articulating. Far better, they say, that we force a few kids to stay with private companies, instead of the cheaper and better Medicaid coverage, even if it means keeping millions of other children out of the health-care system.

The children’s health insurance program is one of government’s undiluted success stories. Children’s health care produces a lifetime of rewards, for the children and society. Mike Huckabee, the self-styled most conservative governor in Arkansas history, is moved almost to tears talking about it. He and Mike Beebe, then a state senator, teamed up in 1997 to make Arkansas one of the pioneers with the ARKids First program. Congress, on President Clinton’s initiative, followed with SCHIP a few weeks later.

The bill that the Senate Finance Committee recommended last week by a vote of 17-4 would continue to cover the roughly 6.6 million children who benefited last year and expand it over time to cover some 3.6 million others, mostly the very poorest who are eligible now but do not participate. It would expand eligibility upward to cover more children of the working poor. Cigarette and tobacco taxes would be raised to pay for it, which would drive more young people not to smoke. Bush is against that, too. Haven’t the tobacco companies suffered enough?

Bush has a tiny bit of truth on his side when he says the expanded SCHIP would cause some people to drop their children from private plans and enroll them in SCHIP. But the administration says those would be the primary beneficiaries and that the number of uninsured would not be reduced. The studies, even one by the health economist whom the administration likes to cite, show that the switchovers would be relatively small.

But so what if a few switch to a cheaper plan with better benefits? Bush’s own plan for expanding health coverage would do the same. He would give tax deductions to families for premiums to encourage them to buy from the insurance companies. The benefits would go almost entirely to people who already have coverage, and the president’s favorite health economist says that the individual tax credits would be simply another inducement for employers to end their group plans.

Here is the biggest irony. Remember Bush’s generous acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican Convention, when he sought to return to the compassionate conservatism of 2000 by talking about the desperate need to give Americans health insurance?

“In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs,” he declared, to applause. “We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.” That is exactly what the SCHIP reauthorization and the extra money propose to do. Eighty-five percent of the children who would be added are those already eligible. Either Bush didn’t mean it, or Dick Cheney told him he couldn’t do it.

The administration has one other argument. The expanded SCHIP program is a foot in the door for a single-payer national health insurance plan like the one Michael Moore espouses in the movie “Sicko.” Bush called it “a Washington-run, government-owned plan where government makes the choices, where government sets the prices, where government then taxes people to pay the bill.”

That would be a good strategy but, too bad, it is not. SCHIP is run by the states, private doctors and hospitals provide the care, and private carriers administer benefits.

Favorite

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Vive la resistance!

    House Minority Leader Michael John Gray wants to chair the Democratic Party of Arkansas. His plan to lead the party back to relevance: Start listening to Arkansas again.
  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Fake economics

    • Trump economic proposals: Rates for Married-Joint filers: Less than $75,000: 12% More than $75,000 but…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation