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Tuesday, April 24th 2007

Is CHIP Hillarycare On Installment?

After going to Austin and playing advocate for extending Texas’ CHIP enrollment period to a full year, I had this to say about the State’s Children Health Insurance Program,

Not even the most cold hearted libertarian can deny the state’s responsibility to say, abandoned and orphaned children. And with strict eligibility rules applied isn’t providing for children whose parents can’t just an extension of such?

But in a year when health care is shaping up to be the domestic issue – as I’ve already commented on here and here – an Opinion Journal piece criticizes any expansion of CHIP at the federal level, by citing some disturbing trends in how states are using the funds.

[Democrats] pronounce S[-CHIP] “underfunded”–and sure enough, 2007 funding already falls short of covering enrollees in 18 states by about $900 million.

But this “crisis” arose because some states have grossly exceeded Schip’s mandate. They are using the program to expand government-subsidized coverage well beyond poor kids–to children from wealthier families and even to adults. And they’re doing so even as some 8.3 million poor children continue to go uninsured.

Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin cover more adults than children. In 2005 Minnesota spent 92% of its grant insuring adults, and Arizona spent two-thirds the same way.


Almost As Scary As Her Plan For CHIP?
(Credit: Pajamas Media & Roman Genn)

The piece goes on to get on Clinton’s attempt to expand CHIP without establishing more accountability in keeping those who it wasn’t intended for off the rolls.

A bill introduced by Senator Clinton and Representative John Dingell would make all of this worse. It would index government Schip outlays to national health spending and growth in states’ child population. Without “quantifiable” progress–i.e., expanded rolls–funding drops. The legislation would also create incentives for states to expand Schip to the New York level of 400% of poverty. If this keeps up, a family will soon be eligible for Schip and subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

In other words, what began as a hard-cap grant to cover the working poor is evolving into an open-ended entitlement to cover whatever promises states make.

The Children’s Health First Act according to Clinton,

“will keep kids healthy, save lives, control costs, and end heartache and worry for so many parents. This plan is practical and fiscally responsible – it will honor our values and prevent kids from needing more costly healthcare in the future.”

Maybe. It is hard to fault a bill for not doing something outside its intended purview. So maybe we shouldn’t get on Clinton and Dingell’s plan for not limiting adult access to S-CHIP. But is 400% of the poverty line too high a level and does the new plan overfund S-CHIP?

We Can Spend Your Money For You! It Works Out Great!

True the federal poverty level is a joke. A remnant of an agricultural time, whose adjustment for inflation over the years has failed to truly reflect what equates with poverty nowadays. But as the Opinion Journal piece points out having families with children on CHIP and also paying the Alternative Minimum Tax is kind’ve ridiculous (and I don’t care how far the AMT is encroaching into “middle” America).

The liberal cry is for the eight million uninsured children. Disgraceful, I agree. But as seen above the issue really is beyond that. There is likely funding for those eight million children already in place if CHIP was properly funded and implemented by the states.

I may get myself into trouble here since I’ve spent all of a half hour educating myself on this bill but it seems that presenting Dillinger and Clinton’s plan as merely an expansion to cover those eight million children is naive and an oversimplification.

We’ll see how far this new proposal gets.

You can follow the bill on Open Congress or read the entire text on Thomas.