Posts tagged ‘SCHIP’

Uninsured Math Becoming Clearer

Tonight, Obama reduced the number of "uninsured" Americans he is trying to help from 47 to 30 million.   Megan McArdle hypothesizes that he has dropped immigrants and illegal aliens from the number to avoid the political fallout from paying for these groups.

But we can also further drop the number from 30 million to 18 million, because 12 million people are in a category "reform" supporters say could afford insurance today but choose not to buy it.  Rather than being helped by the plan, these 12 million will be expected to either buy insurance they don't want or need or else face severe penalties from the feds:

Under the plan, people who earn between 100% and 300% of the poverty level (or between about $22,000 a year and $66,000 a year for a family of four) would face fees ranging from $750 to $1,500 a year.

For taxpayers with incomes above 300% of poverty, the penalty starts at $950 a year and reaches as high as $3,800 for families. Nearly 12 million people fit in this category, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management.

The idea behind the penalty is that those who can afford insurance but don't buy it are imposing costs on the entire health system. Under the proposal, nearly 12 million people who currently have no insurance could be subject to such fines, according to figures compiled by the National Institute for Health Care Management.

It is hard to argue these 12 million are being helped.  In fact, they are the milch cows helping to pay for the program, giving the lie to Obama's promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.

But of these remaining 18 million, as many as 10-14 million are eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or SCHIP and are simply waiting until they need medical care before signing up.

Every time anyone counts it, there are about 8-10 million truly hard core poor and uninsured.  So we are going to screw up the medical care for the other 290 million of us to help these guys?   As I said before, this country is generous and if one were to point out a segment in true need, the money would likely be made available.  What concerns most people is not the libertarian fears I have of more spending and government, but the fear that helping a few folks will mean worse care for everyone else.  The analogy I have used many times is that people don't have a problem contributing to public housing for the poor (even if it turns out to suck), but they do have a problem if they are forced to leave their own home and enter the crappy public housing as well, in the name of some misplaced notion of egalitarian "fairness."

Health Care Opposition Not About Being Uncharitable

I have seen several folks of late testing out a meme that opposition to health care reform is mostly about churlish unwillingness to help people.  My sense is that this is dead wrong.

As a strong libertarian, that may well be my motivation.  But the vast majority of Americans accept and support the government safety net and generally will support reasonable expansions of it to address true need.   I think most Americans would be willing to help people who honestly need financial aid to pay the health care bills.  This is particularly true for children -- you don't remember people going ballistic over SCHIP, do you?

I am not representative.  The vast center of this country is willing to accept, even embrace, increased government interventions in the right cause.  I forgot to blog on it, but remember that poll a few weeks ago that a majority of Americans think the government should required that women take their husbands last name after marriage?  I think the notion that there is any kind of sizable block of small government libertarian type folks out there is simply a myth.

So health care intervention and spending can be sold - again remember SCHIP but also the prescription drug bill.  I think the Administration is having trouble selling it in this case for two reasons:

  • They are having difficulty showing people who truly are not getting care.  Sure there are a lot of people who are uninsured, but I think that meme has been around enough for people to deconstruct.  Who isn't getting care?   Sure, for some folks getting care is a real hassle, but there are arguments to be made that accepting charity should not be that easy (remember the old Welfare?)  And sure, some folks have financial straights and can even face bankruptcy over health care bills, but our bankruptcy laws are incredibly generous and when tens of thousands are facing bankruptcy because they bought too many TV's on their credit cards, it almost seems honorable to face bankruptcy over your wife's cancer treatment.
  • The second problem is what I call the public housing problem.  In the late 1960s, Americans were concerned about the poor and homeless and spent billions to build housing projects for them.  It turns out that this doesn't work out so well, but that is not my point.  My point is that Americans could be convinced to spend money to build poor people government homes.  BUT their position would have been very different if investments in public housing required the rich and middle class who were paying for the program to move out of their homes and into public housing as well.That is the fear that I think much of America has today.  If asked, they would likely pay to provide government health care in an instance where it was demonstrated that health care was entirely lacking.  They would likely suspect that such care, like much of public housing, would suck, but as it was being offered to someone who supposedly had nothing, it would represent a net improvement.  But they don't want to move into the projects themselves, and frankly don't understand why agreeing to help poor people afford more health care also means they have to move into the government system themselves.