Elizabeth Hartline Green
Not caring for the health of children
For anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the last few months, the news that President Bush has decided to make it much harder for states to expand eligibility for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program beyond 200 percent of the federal poverty level is unsurprising. Bush has been threatening to veto a bill that would increase funding and access to the program for a while now, claiming that it will encourage people to not use available private insurance options. The new policy will not allow states to extend coverage unless they enroll 95% of children who are eligible at 200% of the poverty level (something which no states have been able to do). If states do meet that eligibility percentage, they also must certify that every child whose family makes over 250% of the federal poverty level has been without insurance for at least a full year.
This leaves me with one question: why are we using the health of children as a pawn to make a political point about socialized medicine? Certainly, states should do everything they can to maximize enrollment, but that could be more easily done through easing the somewhat complicated process and increasing access to information. We probably aren't doing enough to reach all the children who are eligible for the program, and this group should be tapped out. But reaching all of these children will be exceedingly difficult to do without an increase in funding for the efforts (something Bush is not willing to allocate money towards). Should states who want to expand the program to cover more children really be banned from doing so? Besides this, there's the fact that several states, with federal approval, already cover children beyond the 200% line—this guideline is promising to wreak havoc on their current systems and on the families who will have coverage withdrawn.
Then there's the other factor that makes this policy change suspicious: the one-year requirement. So, if you recently switched to a job that doesn’t provide insurance from one that does, or for some reason lost your coverage through work, you would have to let your kids go without insurance for an entire year before they could be covered. It seems that President Bush wants so badly to make the point that he will not accept universal health care of any sort that he is willing to sacrifice the health of middle-class children to a principle.
This is bad policy at its finest, along with a subversive effort to undermine the legislative process by changing guidelines. New York and other states are promising to fight the new rules. Let’s hope that the states win this one, or we could see consequences in the well being of our children.