A SCHIP-pery Slope

Posted: Oct 08, 2007 10:27 AM
A SCHIP-pery Slope

* The House and Senate sent a hugely expanded version of the SCHIP program to the President and the President, as promised, vetoed the bill.

* First things first. SCHIP is not pronounced "ship." It is pronounced "ESS-chip."

* Now for the dead lock bar bet: SCHIP stands for  State Children's Health Insurance Program.

* Which, of course, it is not. It is a FEDERAL children's health insurance program but "EFF-chip" wasn't ever going to fly if only because it sounds too much like F-Troop.

* According to PBS, the original CHIP (no S) program was adopted in 1997 having been supported by President Bill Clinton.

* The idea behind this program is a worthy one: To provide health insurance to children whose families are too poor to afford the premiums on their own, but make too much to qualify for coverage under Medicaid.

* The program which has been in effect covers young Americans up to the age of 18 with a family income of not more than twice the official poverty level.

* According to the Department of Health & Human Services web site, in 2007 a family of four was deemed living at the poverty level if it had an annual income of not more than $20,650. That level of income for a family of four would qualify as poverty in 2007 under any fair assessment.

* A child in that family qualifies for health care through Medicaid but a family making a total income of $30,000 would not. Under the existing SCHIP guidelines a child with a family income of up to $40,000 would qualify.

* But, the Democrats' re-do has upped the income level for a child to qualify to $83,000 - FOUR times the poverty level (at least in New York) which is an income stretching the definition of "poverty" to the point of snapping.

* Not only that, but the Democrats' bill redefines a "child" as someone up to age 25, stretching the definition of "child" to  well, you know.

* There may be people who believe that if you can't afford health insurance for your kids, that's just too bad, but I am not one of them. The kids didn't ask to be born - and they certainly did not ask to be born into a family earning just 200% of the poverty level.

* Of course, the Popular Press has joined with its allies in the Democratic Party to portray President Bush as being anti-child. The Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman led their piece thus:

"President Bush yesterday vetoed a $35 billion expansion of a popular children's health insurance program, a move that left him as politically isolated as he has ever been and had even Republican allies questioning his hard-line strategy."

* President Bush made it clear that he wanted the Congress to send him a re-authorized SCHIP program which he could sign, but Democrats sent up a bill which the White House had warned was veto-bait.

* Why? So they could set up this exact discussion: Bush will argue in favor of tax cuts for the rich, while he vetoes health care for poor children.

* No main stream medium will write this, but the reality of the situation is: Congressional Democrats were willing to trade the health of children to score political points against the President.

* It is also true that if they can expand coverage to families up to 400% of the poverty line and individuals up to the age of 25, Democrats can go to 800% of poverty ($160,000 per year) and individuals up to 65 (when Medicare kicks in).

* National. Health. Insurance.

* I told a New York Times reporter when I was called about the political impact of the President's veto that for many - if not most - Republican primary voters, this expansion of the SCHIP program was not a step down the slippery slope of national health care - it was a four man bobsled on an Olympic run.

* He didn't use the quote.