Peter Ferrara has written an article encouraging President Bush to veto the SCHIP expansion plan that congress has proposed. The president is calling for a $5 billion increase in the SCHIP budget, while the House wants to increase the budget by $50 billion and the Senate would like to see a $35 billion increase. The president has vowed to veto the congressional bills, since they far exceed the budget increase he wants to see.
Mr. Ferrara takes a bit of a holier than thou attitude to the whole situation, talking about how children’s health insurance isn’t that expensive to begin with:
…decide if government financing of health insurance for children, which is not expensive and which the vast majority of Americans in truth can really afford, is really the most urgent priority.
I could be wrong, but my guess would be that Mr. Ferrara has never had to choose between feeding his family or insuring them. But although I think his tone is a bit blase when it comes to the not-so-pleasant realities that low income families face in the US, he makes some very good points in his article.
Paying for all of this increased spending (for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) would require Federal taxes to double as a percent of GDP. That would be such a fundamental change in our economy that the prosperous America we know today would become unrecognizable.The Democrats are responding to this by completely ignoring it and just proposing instead the massive expansion of new welfare state programs, such as SCHIP. This constitutes an abuse of the taxpayers and of the public trust.
Republicans rightly trying to fight this SCHIP expansion have unfortunately become bogged down in trying to develop an alternative through the income tax code. Since the bottom 40 percent of households in terms of income do not pay income taxes, and the middle 20 percent pay relatively little, trying to provide assistance to low-income families this way is really not workable.
I appreciate the way that Mr. Ferrara has taken on both sides in this issue, showing how neither side has it all figured out. Reforming health care funding is not going to have a simple solution. And both sides need to back down and look at this for what it is: people need health care. They don’t need stubborn politicians who are unwilling to compromise and try to see eye to eye with each other.
Mr. Ferrara makes another good suggestion when he proposes that health care be moved out of the federal arena and into the hands of the states:
…alternative to the SCHIP expansion should be to block grant both Medicaid and SCHIP back to the states, using the model of the highly successful 1996 reform of the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Under those reforms, the welfare rolls under the old program declined by about 60 percent nationwide.Send the federal funds now spent on both of these programs back to the states in a finite block grant for each state, with the money to be used for a new program designed by each state for its own citizens. Each state would decide at what level of income assistance would be provided, and what would be covered.
I don’t care for his mention that states could then decide whether funding childrens’ health care is an urgent priority – I think it is – but I do like the idea of each state being responsible for it’s own children’s health care program (and indeed, all its health care programs). New York recently tried to expand SCHIP to include children in families with up to 400% of poverty level earnings (over $68,000 for a family of three). This is a perfect example of why a state-by-state basis for need based health care makes sense. I live in Colorado, and I don’t think any family of three earning nearly $70,000/year needs assistance in paying for health insurance. But perhaps in NY they do. The cost of living in places like NY and CA is far higher than in places like KS and ND. If each state could have control of its own SCHIP funds, things like regional cost of living could be taken into consideration with much more clarity. Citizens would have a much more accessible, local forum for expressing their concerns with a program, and states would have more control over which citizens qualify for assistance.