Monday, November 26, 2007

SCHIP, again

I fear that this is turning into a political blog vs a faith based blog.

But, as someone said (I think it is the author Terry Tempest Williams, but I'm not sure), politics is religion and religion is politics.

I sent a polite but scolding email to one of my senators, John Thune, concerning his vote against the SCHIP bill. I told him I would remember his heartless act when he runs for re-election. He doesn't run until 2010, but my memory is long.

Anyway, here is what he said to me in a reply (which is quite unusual for him; he is known for not responding to communications from constituents).

"Thank you for contacting me about the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, the SCHIP program was created in 1997 to provide health coverage to children from families with income that is modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid. I supported the creation of the SCHIP program when I served in the House of Representatives. Since 1997, SCHIP has helped cover thousands of low-income children in South Dakota who needed coverage.

While I support continuing the SCHIP program, I did not vote for the Senate's SCHIP expansion bill (H.R. 976), which would more than double the size of SCHIP, increasing it by $35 billion dollars-and at a total cost of $112 billion over ten years. The bill would also continue to allow adults to be covered under a children's health insurance program, taking limited funding away from children. It would also allow children from families making as much as 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (a family of four making $82,000) to obtain benefits. This bill passed the Senate on August 2, 2007.

Unfortunately, the Senate's proposal would expand the program well beyond its original intent to cover low-income children. It would also result in large tax increases on all Americans. The Senate's bill includes a large, narrowly tailored tobacco tax, which is an unsustainable source of funding and will ultimately require even broader tax increases. It is estimated that just to achieve the needed revenues to fund this proposal over ten years, the country will need 22 million new smokers.

Instead, I voted for an alternative proposal, known as "Kids First," that would have reauthorized the program in a responsible manner and re-focused the program on low-income children. This proposal would have helped families and children to keep their private insurance by improving the ability of states to subsidize families' monthly premiums. Also, the proposal included important reforms to help strengthen the private insurance market over the long-term by allowing small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance. Known as "small business health plans," this provision would lower health care costs for all small business employees and the self-employed in South Dakota .

Going forward, I believe this Congress will need to address the larger problem of the uninsured in our country. Hopefully, in a bipartisan manner we can forge a solution that bolsters the private insurance market and also strengthens our federal health programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and SCHIP. I look forward to this important debate.

As Congress further considers this issue, I will be sure to keep your concerns in mind. If you would like additional information on my activities in the Senate, please feel free to visit my website, Thanks again for contacting me. Please keep in touch."

What was that about strengthening the private insurance market? Where are our priorities? And there already was a bipartisan bill with many Republicans signed on.

He is just another of Bush's lackies. He'll win re-election as this is South Dakota, but not on my vote. Like I said, my memory is long. And I do vote.


FranIAm said...

Greetings and Peace! I have found my way to your blog again and happily so.

This is a really important post. I was really knocked over by his concern for the private insurance market. I can't find the link right now, but I will keep looking, but I recently read a piece about how many have turned the "market" into God. And how that continues to hurt our country every day.

One of the real issues- and he hits on this, albeit in a far too linear way, is adult coverage. Um, kids actually need their parents healthy and alive too. That's another topic and I don't want to go too far afield here.

When SCHIP was on the table, there was a huge outcry over the income levels for some places. As someone living in the NYC metropolitan area, I can pretty much tell you things cost more here.

With the average rent of a 3 bedroom place in the 2 to 3 thousand dollar a month range, well you can do the math. A family of four earning 80K is not as well off as the 80K on its own might imply.

Anyway, I have gone on a rant here, I just wanted to say that this was great. It is nearly impossible to be a person of faith and not include politics in your blog.

However, it is always good to reflect on the mix.

My blog is really way more in the realm of slice of life and extreme snark/sarcasm, but I too wander into the area of faith. (Just a disclaimer lest someone wander over!)

And I read and am always inspired by blogs such as your own.

Peace and grace to you and to all.

Episcopollyanna said...

I'm glad I saw you'd visited my blog (Thanks, BlogLog!). This is such an important post and issue, and it can't be stressed enough. This year, our state legislature expanded health care coverage to 38,000 of the 73,000 uninsured children in the state.

It's a national shame for children (or anyone, for that matter, to go without health care). People should not have to choose between food, utilities or medicine. As someone dealing with serious illness, I know what it costs to go to doctors and pay for prescription medicines, and it just sickens me when I think of people going without care.

Oh dear, I've gotten myself all worked up. Just had to comment. Hope you are feeling better as well. God bless. +