Wednesday, November 14, 2007
SCHIP - Nasty Politics Affect Our Children
I say "our children" because we should all care about providing health care for the youngest, most helpless members of our society. It's not "them"...it is "us".
SCHIP (State Childrens Health Insurance Program) is a Federal and State government program that provides health insurance for families who earn too much for Medicaid but are near the poverty level and cannot begin to afford health insurance. Each State can determine the design, eligibility, benefit package and payment levels for coverage. Some States cover pregnant women or families and some have gone above the 200% of poverty level for a family of four ($37,700)
The bipartisan congressional bill to expand SCHIP to cover 4 million more children by 2012 was vetoed by George Bush who believed it would "Federalize Health Care". Despite SCHIP, which was started in 1997, the number of uninsured children continues to rise and 68.7% of new kids without health insurance came from families who are above the 200% of poverty level. We all know what has happened over the past 10 years with rising insurance costs and employers dropping coverage. Just saying "no" hurts families and children in America. Have you priced health insurance lately? A family of 4 would pay a minimum of $600/month if they could even get coverage! It's an impossible situation.
I was at a meeting this week where physician leaders of medical groups were discussing the SCHIP veto and how they would handle children in their practices who will lose coverage. They wanted to develop a policy of continuing to provide free care, even though there would be no reimbursement. It brought tears to my eyes to hear them discuss in earnest how they could do this...especially when they are already providing care for Medicaid children at a financial loss. Government programs (Medicare and Medicaid) are a form of "charity care" for most physicians who lose money on these patients. The physicians were determined to do whatever they could to prevent children from having no medical home.
As a practicing physician, I hear the stories and see the faces of people that are struggling to make ends meet. On the ground it is not a statistic, but a child with asthma or a broken leg or needing immunizations. Americans are not opposed to seeing their tax dollar used for health or education. We all hate waste and incompetence and fraud and SCHIP is none of those. SCHIP was originally started by a bipartisan republican congress and has been a successful program that helps our neediest citizens. What a shame that our Country cannot find the will and the resources in 2007 to cover poor children and pregnant moms and (oh gasp!) even poor parents.
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