Monday, July 30, 2007


I don't know if you have been following the following the debate concerning healthcare for children. For some time, I have known that Bush is planning to veto the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) if it passes Congress. Yesterday it passed the House by 222 to 197. That was 222 Democrats for and 195 Republicans against. Not one Republican voted for this vital bill (only 2 Democrats against). Apparently there is more bipartisan support in the Senate, but not enough to override a veto.

For review:

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a national program in the United States designed for families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private insurance.

This is a good program for many children. It is said to be for the "working poor." From the number of children we see who are on the program, if this is true, there must be an awful lot of poor people around here. From our standpoint it is a lousy program in terms of reimbursement but it is certainly better than nothing. Also, in Maryland, all of the children covered by SCHIP are bundled into the childhood Medicaid population and then farmed out to a number of "managed care" companies, one of which is United HealthCare.

(If interested, I posted about the obscene profits of United HealthCare in March, 2006.)

The objections of the Republicans (and the President) are not that this is a bad program, in fact, it is one of the few Government programs that really work. The objection is that, because it works, people will want it expanded and eventually a National Health plan. Also, one of the sources of financing will be stopping the subsidization of insurance companies to have Medicare plans which are alternative to regular Medicare. Imagine that, insurance companies get subsidies!

In other words, the Federal Government is subsidizing the insurance industry by giving reimbursements so that they can compete with traditional Medicare (The bill would equalize payments between MA plans and traditional Medicare over five years, reducing federal reimbursements by nearly $50 billion over that time period. ) In other, other words, the Democrats want to abolish a federal program! I am incapacitated by irony.

Bush’s opposition is entirely, by his own admission, ideological. Here’s what he told a friendly audience in Cleveland last week:

“[S-CHIP is] now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care. That’s what that is. It’s a way to encourage people to transfer from the private sector to government health care plans…. I strongly object to the government providing incentives for people to leave private medicine, private health care to the public sector. […]

“I mean, think of it this way: They’re going to increase the number of folks eligible through S-CHIP; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a — I wouldn’t call it a plot, just a strategy — (laughter) — to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.”

Of course Bush doesn't see a problem with health care in the United States. Why, we have the best care in the World (not!). And if you don't have insurance, why you can just:

After the Senate Finance Committee approved an expansion of the federal Children's Health Insurance Program to cover nearly 10 million kids, President Bush offered a strange rationale for threatening to veto it.

"People have access to health care in America," he told an audience in Cleveland. "After all, you just go to an emergency room."

This is one of the worst reasons not to have access to health care. Our ER's are in constant crisis.

Now what about the money?
CBO Report House Democrats' SCHIP measure would cost $86.8 billion over five years and could cost $160 billion over 10 years, according to a preliminary Congressional Budget Office report released Wednesday. According to CBO, reversing scheduled Medicare reimbursement cuts for physicians would cost $100 billion over a decade, and total spending, including cuts made to private MA plans, would increase by $130 billion over 10 years. In addition, cuts to MA plans would generate $50.2 billion over five years and $157.1 billion over 10 years, the CBO report states. In a letter accompanying the report, CBO Director Peter Orszag wrote that House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is revising the legislation, which likely will change the cost and savings estimates.
Now it is a little difficult difficult to put all this together but suffice it to say that it is miniscule in comparison to the expenditures in Irak (one trillion and counting).

And, of course, Bush just announced a big arms sale to the midEast:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday announced a proposed $13 billion military aid package for Egypt and a $30 billion package for Israel, along with plans to provide such aid to Saudi Arabia and Gulf states (emphasis added).
It appears that if you are an Israeli, you not only get good health care, it is paid for by the U.S. picking up the tab for your armaments (which, of course, goes into the pocked of all those Bush supporters.)

In summary, not only is the system broken, when it comes to money, children lose out. While they don't vote they will some day. Republicans are counting on bad memories.

Face it, kids, you aren't going to win anytime soon.

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