Is it charity to rob from the poor and give to the not-really-poor? That's what today's Washington Post editorial on SCHIP would have you think. The piece misses the point of new administrative criteria placed by the Bush administration on the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
This is not about blocking help to needy kids. Under any normal set of circumstances, children whose families make more than 250 percent of the poverty level (that's an annual income of more than $50,000 for a family of four, i.e. two children) do not need government assistance to get health insurance. Period. It amazes me that the argument to the contrary is taken seriously. Most conservatives can accept the idea of state governments reaching out to help the truly needy. But barring extraordinary circumstances, if you make that much money and you are not even buying insurance for your children, you should lose custody before you have any right to go on the dole.
As I wrote last week, this applies all the more given that no state has even managed to insure 95 percent of children who live at less than 200 percent of the poverty level. Why are states trying to insure middle-class kids when they have evidently failed in their mission to insure poor children?
For states that try to insure the non-poor (above 250 percent of poverty), there is also a new year-long waiting period between private insurance and SCHIP. This is intended to stop the non-poor (and their employers) from dropping private coverage and plundering a program that is supposedly for the poor. (Admittedly, the letter announcing the new policy is not exactly clear on whether the waiting period applies to everyone in such states, or just to applicants above 250 percent of poverty.)
The Post notes that this would affect 19 states and Washington, D.C. If it stops them from approving more applications for a middle-class welfare system, isn't that a good thing? If SCHIP is a program for poor, uninsured children, then Bush is doing exactly the right thing to keep it that way, to prevent states from spending down their block grants by using money on the non-poor that is intended for the poor.
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