Recently the National Review and the Wall Street Journal have been trying to rouse support against the Democratic plan to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program(SCHIP). It is widely viewed that that Democrats view the expansion of SCHIP as the down payment for universal healthcare. Their plan is to start with a bad “universal” health care system and then when it fails replace it with the health care system they really wanted. The original objective of SCHIP was to help insure children and their parents who earn too much for Medicaid and too little for private insurance. It is pretty obvious that the program achieved as much success as they are ever going to attain with children’s healthcare some years ago. From the Congressional report it is obvious that some states, Florida and Texas, have persistent problems with children’s healthcare despite the subsidy. Lower health insurance costs is just one part of the children’s health care issue. Other states without serious children’s health care issues have taken advantage of the program to expand the program to cover adults without children and to provide insurance children of middle class parents. This is not what Congress intended but the result is not surprising. New Jersey has a health care crisis due to their own bungling so it is not surprising that they are leading the pack in this area. A government health care program can be cheaper for a middle class family due to the subsidy but I doubt it is better or more efficient than private insurance alternatives. Expanding SCHIP has all of the characteristics of a program that is spirally out of control, more service from an inefficient program with ambiguous objectives. I view the SCHIP program and most of the health care reforms a various forms of a “free lunch”. Most of the programs promote their service and down play their financial oversight. Universal health care attempts at the state level have failed because they are unable or unwilling to control health care costs. Inevitably the state programs fail because they cost more for less service and are widely viewed as a poor way to transfer wealth from one group of people to another. Despite the budget failures of universal health care at the state level, I doubt that Congress will ever get rid of a health care system even if it is inefficient and costs more money than expected. SCHIP is no longer about children’s health care.
With the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota it is not hard to see the coming budget conflict. Assuming that the war in Iraq will be winding down in the next year or so, the next budget conflict will be between health care subsidies and infrastructure repairs. The Defense Department budget will gradually decline to historic norms while health care subsidies and infrastructure earmarks duke it out for their slice of the budget pie. Let the games begin!