SCHIP Fact Check
posted by Frank Pasquale
As the children’s health insurance bill heads toward a veto from the President, it’s important to discuss exactly why he thinks it so important to keep insurance out of reach of so many kids. After all, about 11% of all children are uninsured. A fact check from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities helps clarify matters and is heavily quoted below.
On Sept. 20, the President asserted that there was a tension between insuring “poor” children, and expanding the program to those coming from middle class families. I’m a bit skeptical–as employer-based health insurance becomes harder to find, more of the middle class is starting to face the same difficult individual insurance market as the poor. Moreover, consider this analysis from the CBO:
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the SCHIP bill passed by the Senate last month — which the emerging agreement will closely resemble — found that at least 85 percent of the otherwise-uninsured children who would gain coverage under the bill have incomes below states’ current SCHIP eligibility limits.
Here’s a bit more commentary on the President’s position:
The President’s statement that Congress should “focus on making sure poor children get the health insurance they were promised” is particularly ironic given that on August 31, the Administration announced that it would completely eliminate federal Medicaid matching funds for Medicaid outreach and enrollment activities undertaken by school personnel, even though this is widely recognized as one of the best ways to reach poor children who are eligible for publicly funded coverage but are unenrolled and uninsured.
The administration has also argued that “tax breaks” should be the preferred resolution of the crisis of the uninsured, but “less than one-quarter of the benefits of those tax breaks would go to people who would otherwise be uninsured, according to an analysis by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber.” Gruber is no reflexive liberal–he’s on the conservative wing of Massachusetts’ Connector Clearinghouse for health insurance plans. But people across the ideological spectrum can recognize that a “world in which the sick and dying get to deduct some of the cost of health insurance that they don’t have — and can’t get — on their taxes” isn’t much of a policy accomplishment.
One last point from CBPP after the break:
The President also claimed today that the emerging congressional SCHIP agreement is “an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.” This, too, is incorrect. Most SCHIP beneficiaries receive coverage through private managed care plans that contract with their state, not through government doctors. The American Medical Association and the trade associations for the private insurance companies and the drug companies — hardly supporters of “government-run” health care — support expanding SCHIP to cover more uninsured low-income children.
So why is the media still covering the story via its normal “horse-race” narrative–as though somewhere between the two sides an “objective” balance could be found? Jonathan Chait’s The Big Con suggests one reason, as this NYT review relates: “the press, wary of seeming partisan, simply reported the claims on each side rather than analyzing them.”
I have a sense that the press, if it were up to the task, would put one simple question to the Administration: If a government program like the VA could provide good medical care at a cost lower than private plans, would they oppose it simply because it is “government run”? If that is indeed the case, rational argument about health care reform may become impossible.
Hat Tip: TPM.