Government-run health plan step in wrong direction

By Freedom New Mexico

President Bush correctly has promised to veto an irresponsible, insidious bill that would provide government-subsidized health care to children of middle-class families earning as much as $83,000 a year under a program originally intended to benefit only the poor.

The president Thursday rightly identified the Democrat-controlled Congress’ motive in attempting to expand welfare to the middle class, as “an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.”

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program would spend an additional $35 billion, bringing the total cost of the program to $60 billion over 10 years. The expansion is expected to cover 2.6 million more children, but 1.2 million of those already have private insurance.

Extending benefits to nonpoor families “would move millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care,” Bush said. “Our goals should be for children who have no health insurance to be able to get private coverage, not for children who already have private health insurance to be able to get government coverage.”

“I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care,” Bush said.

The president’s right, but he shouldn’t be surprised. The intent of SCHIP, established in 1997, was to provide government benefits for children whose parents aren’t poor enough to get welfare, but who can’t afford private insurance.

From its inception, SCHIP provided tax funds to states for families earning up to twice the federal poverty limit. Once the welfare entitlement line was crossed from serving the poor to serving the near-poor as well, the debate inevitably became one of degree, not of principle.

Bush wants to increase funding by $5 billion, but to restrict the entitlement to family incomes of no more than twice the poverty level. Democrats want to increase the limit to four times the poverty level. Both seek to use federal tax money to subsidize health care for people who don’t qualify for welfare.

Whoever prevails, it’s nevertheless “a step toward federalization of health care.”

Like many of the Democrat-sponsored “solutions” offered in Washington, the long-term view is to ultimately expand government’s role into every aspect of health care, at first incrementally, then gradually increasing over time until every health care dollar spent either is paid for out of tax funds, subsidized by taxes or tightly controlled by government.

Even without an expansion of SCHIP, nearly half the nation’s children already are covered by some government health program.

Obviously, nowhere near half the nation’s children are poor. We would prefer the president and Congress quit quibbling about how much to federalize health care, and take steps to de-federalize it by removing government controls, restrictions and mandates so the free market can drive down costs and increase availability.