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Don't be afraid to play the "S-CHIP."

  

The Democrats will of course do all they can to gain partisan advantage in the debate over their expanded vision of the State Children's Health Insurance Program or "SCHIP" and the Bush veto.  They will parade children and working poor before the television camera.  They will talk about "the children" until they turn blue in the face.  They will plead and impugn and drag through the mud anyone opposing their plan as heartless, cruel, and inhumane.  They will attempt to peel off as many weak kneed Republicans as they can.  They will embarrass and humiliate any who do not embrace their vision of expanded government.  They will take no prisoners.  This is their issue.  This is the essence of all they stand for.  This is the Democratic Party.  Take your money and create dependency. 

And conservatives should reject it for what it is: a new unfunded middle class entitlement the country can ill afford.  It is also a prelude to the coming epic battle over the direction of health care reform in this country in 08: on the one hand to maintain and expand what is left of our private health care system or to walk merrily down the primrose path to single payer socialized medicine, replete with mandates, waiting lists, deficits, rationing, shortages, and the implosion of the federal budget in a sea of red ink as far as the eye can see. 

Conservatives should defend proudly the American taxpayer.  They should hold up the banner of personal responsibility and limited government.  They should speak of the importance of subsidizing only those who do not qualify for medicaid but are too poor to afford their own private insurance - as SCHIP, in its current incarnation, does and has done for more than six million children for the last ten years since enacted by a Republican Congress in 1997.  It is this version of SCHIP that is embraced by the President and Republicans in Congress and should be made known. 

But they should emphasize that it does not include "children" who are 25 or families making 60, 70, or 80 grand a year.  That is middle class land and the American taxpayer should not have to foot their bills.  These are not poor people and many are not children.  There are limits to taxpayer largess and a new unfunded middle class giveaway is not needed, especially now with baby boomers coming of age and set to digest the federal budget whole between social security and medicare. 

They should proudly resume the mantle of fiscal responsibility and the principle of personal responsibility - which Republicans foolishly squandered during the first six years of the Bush term. 

They should speak of the poverty trap that this program will represent as individuals will avoid better jobs for fear of losing their government subsidized health insurance, as welfare was in the past.  They should speak of the many who will give up private health insurance they currently own for the government program - at taxpayer expense.  They should emphasize that the govt insurance they recieve through SCHIP will generally not be of the same quality as private insurance.  SCHIP pays at medicaid rates which many physicians do not accept, limiting access.  They should emphasize that the American taxpayer is willing to help children that are truly poor, but not those from middle class families who are making good salaries and who are not children.  These individuals and their families are expected to be responsible, to take care of themselves, to examine their own budgets, determine their priorities like everyone else and pay for their own insurance or find jobs that provide them. 

Conservatives should emphasize that the reason health care and health insurance is so expensive today is because of government intervention in the first place.  Because the government tampered with the tax code in the forties and encouraged employer based health insurance (due to wage controls during ww II) with first dollar coverage and third party payers, normal market forces and competition were eliminated and health care costs soared. 

By restoring parity, by leveling the playing field between those who recieve health insurance through their employees and those who purchase their own - by making health insurance premiums deductible, in other words, and other free market mechanisms (HSAs, deregulating the insurance markets so individuals can buy across state lines), health care costs will lessen and insurance will become more affordable.

Conservatives should emphasize that the expansion is unfunded.  The increase in cigarette tax (a regressive tax anyway) Democrats are calling for will not be enough.  The taxpayer can simply not afford yet another spending bill nor can the country afford more liability and red ink to be passed on to future generations. 

Conservatives should stand up for the principles of limited government and fiscal and personal responsibility, not cower at the intimidation tactics of the Democrats.  They should trumpet their support of the current SCHIP program, as they and President Bush do, which has worked effectively to bring health insurance to children of the truly working poor, not the expanded version of the Democrats that puts the American taxpayer on the hook for those who are relatively affluent and no longer children.  Their stand is on behalf of the working poor and the taxpayers of the country, not another unfunded govt program. 

SCHIP, as currently constituted is an enlightened program helping those who do not qualify for medicaid but are legitimately poor and unable to afford their own insurance.  It is this program that is embraced by Republicans and the President, and which should be maintained - not an expansion of it that includes those who earn a good living and are not children.

See my article in August 07 on free market health care reform for more.    

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