Mike the Mad Biologist

Putting the S-CHIP Battle in Context

Maha does a great job of getting at the underlying issues in the Bush adminstration’s opposition to expanding the S-CHIP children’s health insurance program:

The most legitimate question that we have to ask, seems to me, is why is there government? In particular, what is representative, republican government good for? Do people really elect representatives to Congress so that their needs can be ignored in favor of special interests? Is the Constitution really all about limiting the power of people to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity? If that’s really what government is all about, then I’d be tempted to throw in with the libertarians and do away with most of it.

However, I don’t think that is what government is all about. Call me a hopeless romantic or a loony liberal, but I still hold up government of the people, by the people, and for the people as the ideal.

What exactly do people reasonably expect from their government? Franklin Roosevelt explained:

The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

He was talking about “political and economic systems,” which may or may not mean government. He isn’t saying that government and government alone should provide those things, in other words. If private enterprise is providing “jobs for those who can work,” that’s fine. But if private enterprise is sending too many jobs overseas, what then? Does government have any role in seeing to it that enterprises incorporated in the United States are not using slave labor in the third world or importing toys covered in lead paint?

And, in a more nuts-and-bolts political vein, Ezra Klein also provides some context:

Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott wrote warned that expanding S-CHIP “takes a significant step toward a government-run health care system.” And indeed it does.

But not because there is a Trojan horse in the bill, or a compulsory element to the insurance it offers. Rather, it’s because Americans like their government-provided medical care. Medicare achieves much higher patient-satisfaction ratings than do traditional private plans, but it’s available to all seniors already, so there’s no rear-guard action to be fought there. But if S-CHIP is also popular, and many parents come to prefer it to private insurance, others will clamor for their children to have access as well. And if you expand public insurance to children, soon it will move to young adults, and then adults more generally. Its expansion, particularly on the eve of a possible Democratic return to the White House, could be the wedge that leads to full, universal health care for all Americans.

This is what the White House, and the insurers and pharmaceutical companies who fund it, fear. Not that S-CHIP won’t work, but that it will. And that extending affordable, high quality public insurance to children will leave some adults wondering why we don’t extend affordable, high-quality public insurance to everyone. Just like we do for President Bush.

Using children as a proxy in an ideological battle–in defense of a failed ideology–is despicable.

Related post:Amanda notes that opponents of universal healthcare have lost the battle of ideas, if not politics.

Comments

  1. #1 DuWayne
    August 25, 2007

    Dead, nuts on. The totality of objection, is exactly because it “might” work. Having a child of state insurance, I have to say that I have no objections to the quality or timeliness of care. He has a very good experience with quality care. The cost, as I understand it, isn’t very unreasonable either, per covered kid, though I don’t recall the figures.

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