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Bush the Blacksmith

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2007
Posted in Commentary

As a philosopher, President Bush would make a good blacksmith.

The House and Senate are debating extending one of the most successful healthcare programs, the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP. Bush says he is opposed to the plans put forward for philosophical reasons. The present plan has covered less than half of the low income children in the country. Both the House and Senate plans, while not covering every child needing help, increases the coverage.

The country has a vested interest in maintaining the health of our youth. Studies have shown that young diabetics and asthmatics in the program have a 50 to 70% less chance of hospitalization.

Vaccination rates increase dramatically in the covered kids. It is my contention that if financial studies were to be done on the savings in healthcare costs, because of just these factors, the program would more than pay for itself.

Last week Bush was quoted as saying "everyone can get healthcare. All you have to do is go to the emergency room." After spending the better part of a decade as an emergency room physician I can guarantee this is the poorest way to stay healthy and the most expensive. That remark shows how far out of touch compassionate conservatives like Bush are.

Another argument he puts forth is the old bug-a-boo about a "government run healthcare system". This is about a healthcare payment not a system to deliver healthcare. This is an important distinction. In any event, many of the participating states simply buy basic insurance from for profit insurance companies. That practice should stop.

Bush's argument that SCHIP is too expensive is especially offensive when he claims it will increase the deficit. Pay-As-You-Go requirements, that the Democratic Congress has put in place, demands if new programs cost more money other programs must be cut or new sources of revenue must be found. No change in deficits result. Both the House and the Senate fund their bills by increasing taxes on tobacco sales and cuts in a revolting boondoggle to for profit insurance companies.

That boondoggle consists of the Medicare Advantage Program where oldsters can opt out of regular Medicare into a private insurance program to get some minimal fringe benefits. Rather than making the insurance companies compete on an equal field with Medicare, the Republicans subsidize them with tax money. It costs, on average 12% more in tax dollars for these folks than regular Medicare. This increases costs for everyone. The Congressional plans would eliminate part of this. I would eliminate the entire subsidy.

The President was pleased to sign the Prescription Drug plan that cost six times the SCHIP program and all of it is borrowed. Almost all of the $330 billion for the drug plan for the next five years will be paid for by our children, for whom we can't spend $56 billion over the next five years. The Congress is showing fiscal responsibility by paying for the programs with current revenue. Philosophically I would say Bush is the pot calling the kettle black.

Bush worries SCHIP will crowd out for-profit insurance plans. This is a result I devotedly hope for but will probably never see. It would be nice to see them have to compete with a non-profit citizen friendly program on an even playing field.

Senator Norm Coleman, as another election is approaching, has changed his tune slightly since my only personal encounter with him. Amazing how clarifying elections can be on the social conscience of politicians. I will write him requesting he support SCHIP as presently being proposed and if necessary to vote to over ride the promised veto by the blacksmith. In the past he has made noises about disagreeing with the President about Iraq but when confronted with a meaningful vote toes the party line. This will be an interesting vote.

Possibly the heat of the forge and the din of the anvil confused the compassionate conservative into believing leaving 4 to 5 million kids uninsured in order to subsidize multimillion dollar bonuses for insurance executives was a solid philosophical stance. It is not only indefensible on a philosophical level it is on a logical level. Mr. Bushs' disconnect between himself and the English language appears to extend to philosophy.

Robert Sauer lives in Preston. He can be reached at r.sauer@mchsi.com

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