No big surprise – the president vetoed the SCHIP expansion bill yesterday. He’s made it very clear for weeks that he would veto the $35 billion expansion proposal from congress, and he prefers a $5 billion increase to the SCHIP budget (critics charge that $5 billion isn’t even enough to pay for the increasing health care costs for the children currently enrolled in the program).
Congress wants to expand the current program to cover all poor (and some middle class) children in the country. The president says that he is opposed to government-sponsored health care, and that he wants to help people have access to private health insurance instead. Ok, but how’s he going to go about that? I really don’t think it matters whether the 9 million uninsured American children get private or public health insurance, as long as they have access to health care when they need it. Proposals to offer tax breaks to help families pay for private insurance don’t do much for poor families, who pay very little in taxes as it is. If the government wants to pay the premiums for poor families to get private health insurance for their children, I think that would be acceptable to the Democrats in Congress. But just paying lip service to getting coverage – public or private – for the uninsured kids in this country is not enough.
When I was a child, a family that lived near ours had no health insurance. One day, their little girl started crying and wouldn’t stop. She said her head hurt. Finally her parents took her to the ER. She was briefly examined, and the question of health insurance came up. When it was determined that the parents would have to pay cash or installment plan for any care received, the doctor prescribed two Tylenol and a cold washcloth, and sent the family home. The little girl died of meningitis the next morning. No tests had been run on her at all in the ER.
I wonder how many families without health insurance hesitate to take a very sick child to the hospital? Or how many children without health insurance never get preventive care at all? While the political debate rages on, and each side uses votes and vetos as campaign fodder, there are still 9 million children in this country without health insurance (15 percent of the under 18 population in Colorado are without health insurance). Any way you look at it, this is a tragedy. Sure, some of them have irresponsible parents who could afford health insurance for their kids if they made it a priority. Although I think most of them would love to have health insurance, and just can’t qualify for coverage or afford the premiums. But either way, the uninsured children are the ones who suffer. And of everyone involved in this debacle, they are really the only blameless ones.