President Bush has vetoed the higher funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), as expected. This program is intended to take care of the health insurance needs of children whose parents are poor but not poor enough to get their children covered by the state-based (but federally subsidized) Medicaid program. George Bush believes that private markets should take care of these children. Never mind that private markets are not offering affordable coverage for many of these families.
Some conservatives appear to agree with Bush's veto. It was quite funny to note a blog post by the conservative economist Greg Mankiw in which he posed the following question:
With medical costs skyrocketing, the middle class struggling, and heartless Republicans running the government, what has happened to the percentage of children without health insurance over the past seven years?
As a clue to the correct answer Mankiw offered a link to some government data which shows that the number of children without health insurance has steadily declined since 1997. Lo and behold! That must mean that there is no real reason for an enhanced SCHIP, right? See how well the markets are taking care of all those previously uninsured kiddies!
Well, not quite right, because an important reason for the drop in the number of uninsured children is the SCHIP:
Due in large part to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the percentage of low-income children in the United States without health coverage has fallen by one-third since SCHIP was created in 1997, despite the erosion of private health coverage over this period. More than 4 million low-income children, most of whom would otherwise be uninsured, are enrolled in SCHIP.
In fact, the current enrollment is around 6.6 million children.
What does Bush's veto mean for those 6.6 million? In thirteen states they may become uninsured within a week or two and in yet another 23 states by the end of the fiscal year 2008. This is because Bush has promised to veto any increase in the total cap of the program, at 25 billion dollars, despite continuously rising health care costs. So it goes.
If only the money spent on the Iraq occupation and reconstruction was this carefully scrutinized. Come to think of it, how many days of Iraq occupation would pay a year of SCHIP? I know, I know. Apples and oranges. Or weapons and children.