Thursday, October 04, 2007

If you're like me, you wouldn't be upset if the SCHIP proposal was expanded to reach families of 4 making $83,000. The President often complains that this dollar amount would be covered and amounts to a public subsidy of middle-class families who don't need it. I, of course, think the government should cover everyone so it doesn't scare me one bit. Except that it's not true. The bill wouldn't do that at all. An NPR report yesterday lays out all of the details, and in a refreshing display of honest journalism says quite simply the President is wrong. And not just about that number. (my emphasis)
"I believe in private medicine," Bush told an audience in Lancaster, Penn., on Wednesday morning. "I believe in helping poor people, which was the intent of SCHIP, now being expanded beyond its initial intent. I also believe that the federal government should make it easier for people to afford private insurance. I don't want the federal government making decisions for doctors and customers."

But SCHIP isn't the kind of program where government officials make medical decisions. Under SCHIP, children are enrolled in private health insurance.

"Typically, children have a choice from among competing private health-insurance companies," says Stan Dorn, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "There's no federally specified benefits package. There's no individual entitlement."

The president also complained that the bill would cover too many children who don't need federal help. "This program expands coverage, federal coverage, up to families earning $83,000 a year. That doesn't sound poor to me," the president told the Lancaster audience.

Dorn says that's not exactly right, either. "This bill would actually put new limits in place to keep states from going to very high-income levels. SCHIP money would no longer be available over 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $60,000 for a family of four."

The president gets to make the $83,000 claim because New York had wanted to allow children in families with incomes up to four times the poverty level onto the program. That is, indeed, $82,600. The Department of Health and Human Services rejected New York's plan last month, and under the bill, that denial would stand. White House officials warn, however, that the bill would allow a future administration to grant New York's request.
So, let's review. The bill actually establishes a new lowered cap at 3 times the poverty level. It enrolls children in private health insurance. Bush claims it would be a government run program that would cover children 4 times the poverty level, even though only the White House can authorize that kind of waiver, and they don't. (Why not just say the bill covers up to $166,000?? After all, if the President granted a state a waiver up to 8 times the poverty level, then it would.) But because someday some President might say yes to New York's request *to use their own block grant money to cover some middle-class kids*, that amounts - in the President's mind - to saying the bill would cover know, the bill that, explicitly, does not.

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