The Universal Health Care tactical battle Posted by: McQ
on Friday, September 28, 2007
Right now we have Democratic presidential candidates dancing around the health care mulberry bush claiming that their plans to improve American health care aren't really "government run". Oh sure there are universal aspects to it (mandatory insurance), but, you know, that doesn't make it "government run". It just makes sure that everyone has insurance.
Well, if you haven't yet picked up on the fact that the new tactic in the battle over health care is incrementalism, you haven't been paying attention.
The first shot fired in this battle is to be found in the SCHIP program where the Democratic Congress has decided to expand a government run program for poor children from about $5 billion to $12 billion annually for the next five years. They're doing that by expanding the definitions of "poor" (up to 400% of the poverty rate) and "child" (up to age 25). Naturally, many Republicans, seeing a world of trouble for themselves in the upcoming elections, don't want to be on the wrong side of a "for the children" bill and have caved to Democratic pressure. The Senate, yesterday, voted 67-29 to increase spending by over 100% on the program and sent the bill to the President. He's promised to veto it, as he should.
This battle is only one of many you can expect to see in the future (it is the same sort of battle Congressional Democrats are trying to wage against the Iraq war and immigration - see DREAM act.).
And then there are those among the Democrats who feel that the incremental approach is simply too time consuming and they ought to just get on with their attempt to reach their eventual goal - universal single payer health care. They are represented by the John Conyers wing of the Democratic party. He's gearing up a new campaign in anticipation of the Dems winning the White House:
Conyers’ cause is at an awkward moment. Democrats have endorsed universal healthcare mostly across the board. “That’s the name of the game now,” he says in his grave, deliberate manner. “It’s got to be universal something: universal Clinton, universal Obama, universal Edwards.”
But the plans laid out by the top three Democratic presidential candidates — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former vice presidential nominee John Edwards — are not single payer.
“Baloney. We know it isn’t [universal],” says Conyers, pointing out that their approaches generally leave the current system in place, which he considers irreparably broken.
Yet Conyers says he’s “totally unfazed” that the top-tier candidates haven’t endorsed his plan. “They’re hustling their little butts off trying to get positioned,” he says.
Asked if he plans to wait to press his plan on a potential Democratic president until after the election, he doesn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, of course,” he says, arguing that politicians don't generally “jump in front of a revolution, especially not those running for president.”
But afterward, especially early in a new administration, when that "revolution" might be legislatively achievable, my guess is that any of the three top tier Democratic presidential candidates would endorse it - finally taking the "not government run" mask off, not that anyone with an ounce of intelligence believes them when they say that now.
So it is "incrementalism" or "revolution" depending on who is sitting in the White House at the end of January '09. But regardless, you can count on numerous further attempts to get your health care under government control at some point in the near future. Because, you know, as John Conyers says, "... [health care is] a right and not a privilege."
Hey, if you can get away with redefining "poor" and "child", redefining "right" is a snap.
The Senate bill allows for up to 3x the FPL. However, it is curiously indiscernible in the House bill what the income limitation will be. They have removed the text from a previous bill that spelled it out:
H.R. 1535 SEC. 101. STATE OPTION TO EXPAND COVERAGE OF CHILDREN UNDER SCHIP. (a) Option for Coverage of Children up to 400 Percent of Poverty Line- Section 2110(c)(4) (42 U.S.C. 1397jj(c)(4)) is amended by inserting `(or, at the option of the State, any percentage up to 400 percent)’ after `200 percent’.
Description of the Chairman’s Mark, The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2007: Title I Section 110 "For child health assistance or health benefits coverage furnished in any fiscal year beginning with FY2008 to a targeted low-income child whose effective family income would exceed 300% of the federal poverty line but for the application of a general exclusion of a block of income that is not determined by type of expense or type of income, states would be reimbursed using the FMAP instead of the E-FMAP for services provided to that child. An exception would be provided for states that, on the date of enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2007 has an approved State plan amendment or waiver or has enacted a State law to submit a State plan amendment to provide child health assistance or health benefits under their state child health plan or its waiver of such plan to children above 300% of the poverty line."
I’m thinking that there are more shenanigans going on within this bill then is readily apparent. I don’t have time to check it but, am guessing that the amount of money allowed for the current House expansion of the program is the same as it was in the earlier proposal above. Besides, states via waiver request can already extend SCHIP coverage to 3x the poverty level. 4 states already do. Wisconsin covers more adults than children. By expanding coverage to 4x the FPL, 71% of American kids become eligible for subsidized coverage. More than half of new enrollees will drop private coverage to take public assistance.
I understand the concept of picking your battles. But, Republicans in Congress need to step up to the plate on this one.
They’ve been defining child upward for a long time in the statistics that get tossed around regarding how many "children’s" deaths involve firearms. Might as well piggyback the rest of their agenda onto that scam.