What’s fiscally irresponsible about kids health insurance? | NevadaAppeal.com

What’s fiscally irresponsible about kids health insurance?

Kirk Caraway
Internet Editor

Citing fiscal responsibility and fear of “socialized medicine,” House Republicans last week backed President Bush’s veto of the five-year, $35 billion State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill.

Huh? I think they are a few trillion dollars late getting on the fiscal responsibility bandwagon.

Where were these people back in 2003 when they pushed through the Medicare prescription drug bill? Isn’t that socialized medicine?

The 10-year cost of that program was $396 billion when it was passed, and quickly grew to $540 billion, then $737 billion, then who knows what next year.

So for those keeping score at home, $737 billion for seniors good, $35 billion for kids bad.

Bush says we don’t have the money to pay for health insurance for kids, but he and his Republican buddies have no problem writing blank checks to continue the war in Iraq.

Who do they think is going to pay those bills in the future? U.S. Comptroller General David Walker called the Medicare drug benefit “probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s.” He said it would take $8 trillion, invested at current Treasury rates, to cover the gap between what the drug program spends and takes in over the next 75 years.

On the other hand, wouldn’t it seem wise to make sure today’s kids get good medical care so they live long enough to pay off those debts?

At least the SCHIP bill actually raises taxes (on tobacco) to pay for itself. Maybe that’s the problem. Being fiscally responsible in the Bush administration means never having to find a way to pay for anything, just put it on the national charge card.

I hate to break this down to just numbers. These are kids we are talking about. Even a middle-class income isn’t enough sometimes for families to afford health insurance.

But don’t worry. There is always the George Bush health care plan. He summed it up very succinctly back in July. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” Bush said. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Yes, the emergency room. Now that’s a great plan. Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on The Decider that this is one of the big reasons why 47 million people can’t afford to buy insurance anymore.

Using emergency rooms for primary health care is exponentially more expensive than health insurance.

More often than not, uninsured people hold off on treating minor problems until they become major and end up in emergency rooms. So the person with high blood pressure doesn’t get treatment until he shows up at the hospital with a heart attack. Or, he doesn’t realize he has type 2 diabetes until his vision gets blurry and he loses feeling in his legs.

And who do you think pays these bills? We do, all of us lucky enough to still have insurance.

So what is going to happen to all those kids who don’t have insurance? We will pay for them to get their health care from emergency rooms, much more than if we just gave them insurance.

It would be a different story if emergency rooms had gates that only allowed those with insurance to enter, leaving the rest to suffer and die in the streets. There’s a core of conservatives who are all in favor of this Lord-of-the-Flies-style health care. Fortunately, they number something less than the 24 percent who still think President Bush is doing a good job.

Unfortunately, we pay for them all, the uninsured kids, the adults, the illegal immigrants, all of them. We are taxed by our insurance companies for these expenditures through higher premiums, co-pays, deductibles and costs our policies don’t cover. Wouldn’t it be smart to give these people health insurance to direct them to cheaper health care options?

Health care and the national debt are connected. Comptroller General Walker makes the case that we can’t solve our long-term financial problems without tackling health care.

“It’s the number one fiscal challenge for the federal government, it’s the number one fiscal challenge for state governments and it’s the number one competitive challenge for American business,” Walker said.

Doesn’t insuring children sound like a good place to start?

• Kirk Caraway is editor of http://nevadapolitics.com and also writes a blog on national issues at http://kirkcaraway.com.