If Hillary Clinton is elected president, one of the first things she will do is reintroduce a cosmetically approved version of her 1993 health care reform proposal. Under the guise of providing coverage for the 45 to 50 million people living here without health insurance, she will destroy our current health care system.
But now that the Democrats, and a few Republicans, have given President Bush a chance to steal her thunder and take away the prime inducement she will use to rally public support for her radical program: the need to cover uninsured children. Bush should seize the opportunity and sign the revised bill the Democrats are about to pass.
When Congress passed the newly expanded program for child health insurance State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) it contained serious flaws which prompted President Bush to veto the bill. The new version the Democrats appear ready to pass corrects many of those flaws and Bush should sign the bill.
The old bill allowed children living in families making up to four times the poverty level — about $80,000 to be covered. The new legislation drops the cap to three times the poverty level — about $60,000. The old measure included illegal immigrants. The new one doesn’t. The bill formerly covered childless adults. The new one excludes them. The new bill isn’t perfect. It should be more narrowly targeted and should exclude adults and focus only on children. But it’s pretty good.
Republicans like Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are backing the bill. Enough Senate Republicans voted for it to override the Bush veto. But, the override fell short in the House. With the revised bill, the calculation is more dicey for the administration — so they should sign this bill and be done with this issue.
Signing it will remove the major argument for "Hillarycare." Sen. Clinton claims that her program is a narrowly tailored measure to cover the people now living in the U.S. who do not have health insurance. She will say that she’ll leave the rest of us alone. But once these new folks, a third of them illegal immigrants, start using our health facilities, the sharp rise in demand will occasion an equally steep increase in prices. Health care rationing will be the inevitable result. Under the socialized medicine program that will follow, Americans, particularly the elderly, would be denied medical care because a federal bureaucrat decides others need it more.
Once she doesn’t have the uninsured children to talk about, Hillary will be groping for arguments for her health care overhaul. Bush should make his move and take the kids out of the equation. Then the uninsured Americans about whom Hillary will try to generate national angst will be one-third illegal immigrants, one-third Medicaid eligible families who just don’t enroll until they need medical care, and 10 to 20 million adults making more than $60,000 or childless people making $20,000 to $60,000.
They won’t generate a whole lot of national sympathy.
One very positive aspect of the new child health insurance bill, is that it finances the health insurance through a 61 cent hike in tobacco taxes. By itself, this measure will cut health care spending, disease, teen smoking, and will raise life expectancy. It will just be inconvenient for the big tobacco interests.
Bush should sign the bill, raise the tobacco tax and take the issue of uninsured children away from the Democrats. And he can do it all with the stroke of a pen.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann