Two Sides to Every Story?

As 43 governors and two-thirds of the Senate hope the President reconsiders his SCHIP veto, the NYT does a nice job exploring how individuals may be affected by recent shrinkage of the SCHIP program:

In South Jersey, Syeeba Palmer, a widow, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage for her children, ages 2 and 5, because she receives $2,800 a month from her late husband’s Social Security. Ms. Palmer’s monthly mortgage payment is $2,400, she said. And since she was laid off from her job as a health insurance consultant several months ago, she said it cost an estimated $1,100 a month to continue to cover herself and her children. She decided not to get coverage for herself and to apply for New Jersey Family Care for the children. “If I lose this insurance, there is no way I can afford it on my own,” she said.

Reina Urquizo, a legal resident from El Salvador, works at a factory in Warren that makes cables for cellphones and other electronics. Her two sons, ages 2 and 9, were enrolled in the children’s insurance program, but they would no longer qualify under the new eligibility rule. While she has private insurance, the family cannot afford to cover her husband.

But those defending the SCHIP veto say that no one in the debate intends any of the potential hardship or anxiety here:

Everyone is pro-poor. There simply are different ways of being pro-poor: one way emphasizes federal programs and nationalized care, and one favors private initiatives and community empowerment.

But I have to wonder: how long do Urquizo and Palmer have to wait till “private initiatives and community empowerment” kick in to help them? The administration says it has its own method of solving the problem, but will that involve a “defining down” of insurance that compromises children’s health? And when the “the bottom 50% earn[] 12.8% of all income,” is it really fair to ask some of them to pay ever more for health insurance? Here’s the NYT editorial page on an SCHIP alternative:

President Bush’s preferred policy is to provide families with tax deductions to help pay for private insurance. Responsible economists estimate that such an approach would do far less to enroll uninsured children than would the proposed expansion of S-chip. The president’s own budget proposal for maintaining the current S-chip program is so stingy that it would not even cover the number of children currently enrolled — and would probably increase the number of children forced to go without health coverage by hundreds of thousands.

So one bottom line for SCHIP opponents might be this: if you believe that “private initiatives and community empowerment” will solve the problem, please give some sense of exactly how those work and how they will be funded. And if “tax deductions” are a potential solution, how long will we give that to work? As Keynes once quipped, in the long run we’re all dead.

Hat tip: Rick Garnett.

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