View From Lodi, CA: At Last! On SCHIP, Bush Does Something Right—But For The Wrong Reasons
November 02, 2007, 04:00 AM
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After nearly seven years in office, President Bush has finally done something I approve of—vetoing a $35 billion funding increase in the State Children`s Health Insurance Program.

But while I support Bush`s override of the Congressionally-approved legislation, I do so for reasons different than his.

Calling the proposed bill "misguided," Bush offered two explanations for his veto. I agree with both but neither represent why I back him.

Bush`s first argument is that the bill is inflationary. Although Bush is correct, I find that claim disingenuous coming from a man who has spent nearly $500 billion on the Iraq War through September 2007.

And, right again, Bush projects that increased funding for children`s insurance would push people from private medicine to public, called "crowding out". 

The Congressional Budget Office determined that the legislation Bush vetoed would have expanded coverage to 5.8 million children, 3.8 million of whom are uninsured and 2 million of whom already have access to private health insurance, thus resulting in a "crowd-out" rate of 34 percent. (See the complete analysis here.)

While Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi said that her party is lobbying "for all the children," it`s important to parse her statement.

Included in an expanded version of SCHIP will likely be children of illegal aliens as well as, under what is known as "anchor babies," children born to legal residents living in the U.S. on non-immigrant resident status that includes workers, students, religious personnel and fiancée visas. That`s a big umbrella.

If Pelosi were to speak more accurately, she would have said that Democrats want health insurance for all the world`s children.

My main objection is that increased health insurance coverage represents more federal subsidies for children—and, indirectly, to their parents, married or not, to have kids.

And I can`t think of anything we need less in California than more children.

Prudent family planning includes creating financial contingencies for health care.

The U.S. health care system has fallen apart. No matter what the solution may be, if any is possible, it will take years to restore it.

Proposed solutions come from another Republican I rarely agree with, presidential candidate John McCain.

The Arizona senator proposes a three-step plan, all of which make good sense.

First, people could secure health insurance nationwide instead of being limited to purchasing it from in-state companies. They could buy insurance through any organization or association either through their employers or directly from an insurance company.

Second, McCain endorses different methods of delivering care, including walk-in clinics in retail outlets across the country, and developing routes for the importation of cheaper generic versions of drugs into the U.S. market.

Third, McCain would provide providing tax credits of $2,500 to individuals and $5,000 to families as an incentive to help them buy insurance. All people would get the tax credit even if they get insurance through work.

To offset revenues lost from the tax credits, McCain would end a provision in the tax code that lets employers deduct the cost of health care from their taxable earnings. McCain added that he would work to pass lawsuit limits to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards.

How realistic McCain`s campaign pledges may be is anyone`s guess. But Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff, who has consulted with both Republicans and Democrats on health care, likes McCain`s ideas.

"I give him a B or B+ on this," Kotlikoff said adding that he would adjust the tax credit according to each person`s personal health care circumstances. [McCain Unveils Healthcare Plan, Associated Press, October 11, 2007]

I fully realize and acknowledge that coming out against funding for additional children`s health care coverage may seem churlish.

By way of full disclosure, I admit that my son is well over the 18-year-old SCHIP cut off age. 

My grandchildren do not qualify either. They are privately insured. Although my son`s income is modest, it is too high for SCHIP.

What it comes down to is that I have grown weary of all the things the government wants us to do "for the children."

The best thing Americans can do "for the children" is to have fewer of them.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.