Star Parker

The Senate Finance Committee has approved a major expansion of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. President Bush had proposed expanding its $25 billion budget by $5 billion. But the committee has approved the Democrats' initiative to expand this government program far more aggressively.

Under the proposal, 50 percent more children will be covered by SCHIP through an increase in funding of $35 billion. The cost will be financed by a tax hike on cigarettes of 61 cents per pack.

More health-care coverage for children. More taxes on tobacco. Sounds like a winner, right?

Not at all. Responsible senators should vote against this major step toward further socialization of American health care. And if Congress does pass this, the president should veto it.

The reason for the launch of the SCHIP program in 1997 was affordability of health care. The point was to finance health care for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, almost half of our nation's children have government-paid health care either through Medicaid or SCHIP.

This new proposed expansion would entrench government health care more deeply into the nation's middle class.

Whereas SCHIP coverage has commonly covered families earning up to 200 percent above the poverty line, the new proposal lifts this ceiling to 300 percent. According to the Congressional Budget Office, up to 75 percent of families in this income range already have private coverage.

Because the program is administered at the state level, coverage guidelines vary and in some cases have even included adults.

Meanwhile, as we extend last-resort government medical coverage for the poor into the middle class, increasing numbers of physicians are refusing to participate in Medicaid because of inadequate compensation.

But let's get back to the core issue: runaway health-care costs and accessibility of coverage.

Why, in a country of abundance such as ours, where practically everything just gets cheaper and more accessible, does health care stand out in just getting more expensive?

Or to put it another way: Name any product or service that is delivered in a competitive free market that has not gotten cheaper over time.

This should provide a hint to the problem in health care. Despite what our Democratic Party leadership would have us believe, the increasing costs and inaccessibility of health care is the result of excessive government interference in this market as opposed to not enough.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.