[Posted by WLS]
His column today is an embarrassment for a guy who once enjoyed journalistic credentials.
Lets start with the Headline — I know he didn’t write it, but it matches perfectly with his theme:
“Stealing Healthcare from Babies”
Now, lets begin with his substance:
Congress is moving responsibly to remove a blot on the nation: the 8 million children without health insurance. It is doing so by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, a state-federal partnership that the Republican Congress and President Clinton created in 1997 to cover kids in working-poor families.
You can read Brownstein’s entire column and not come across a critical fact raised by the opponents of the planned expansion of SCHIP — that more than half the “covered kids in working-poor families” are actually adults.
Let’s compare the “analysis” employed by Brownstein in his piece with another article on the subject from Robert Robb in the Arizona Republic today.
Under the bipartisan Senate bill, Washington would spend about $56 billion over the next five years to cover almost half of the nation’s uninsured children. Over the same period, the Medicare entitlement that Bush signed (after more than four-fifths of House and Senate Republicans voted for it) will cost nearly $330 billion.
SCHIP was intended to provide federal subsidies to insure children up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or a family income of about $40,000 a year. The program expires this year and needs to be reauthorized.
No one opposes reauthorization for its intended purpose. The Bush administration has proposed reauthorization for this targeted population with an extra $5 billion in funding over the next five years, over the current base of $25 billion.
Bush’s argument that the SCHIP changes will unacceptably “crowd out” private insurance is misleading in another respect. It’s true, as Bush charges, that if the program is expanded, some eligible families would shift their children into it from private coverage, hoping to save money or improve care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that children making such a switch would account for about one-third of the 6 million kids expected to enroll in the expanded SCHIP program under the Senate plan, and hence one-third of the added cost.
The problem is that SCHIP has expanded beyond its original scope, as so often happens with federal programs. In the early years, many states couldn’t use all their SCHIP money, so the feds permitted excess funds to be used by other states to extend coverage to children beyond 200 percent of the poverty level and even adults.
In Arizona, the SCHIP plan is called KidsCare. A Government Accountability Office study found, however, that 56 percent of the people enrolled in “KidsCare” were actually adults.
Fifteen states now provide SCHIP coverage for children above 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and 14 states cover adults.
Few of the lower-income working families that rely on this program have the time to follow this week’s legislative struggle, much less analyze how it serves the White House’s apparent strategy of embroiling congressional Democrats in unrelenting conflicts with Bush that alienate swing voters. In that political skirmishing, these families have been reduced to collateral damage. They deserve something better from a president who once called himself a “compassionate conservative.”
Congressional Democrats propose not only to fund these existing expanded programs but provide enough funding for other states to substantially expand eligibility, as well. In all, Democrats are proposing to more than double SCHIP funding, allowing universal coverage up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, as Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed for Arizona.
That would provide coverage up to a family income of about $60,000 a year. Since the median family income in the United States is just over $46,000, this reaches well into the middle class.
To pay for the SCHIP expansion, Democrats are proposing to raise tobacco taxes by up to 61 cents a pack. Tobacco taxes are highly regressive. So, basically, Democrats are proposing to tax the poor to pay for the health care of the middle class.
At the end of the rhetoric, however, congressional Democrats aren’t proposing to reauthorize a program to insure low-income children. Instead, they are proposing a massive expansion of subsidized health care to middle-class families, funded by a large increase in heavily regressive tobacco taxes.
So, in Brownstein/LAT world, not subsidizing the health insurance costs of middle-class families — incomes at 300% of the federal poverty level — with proceeds from a highly regressive tax that burdens the poor more than anyone else, amounts to the evil Republicans led by the President “Stealing Healthcare From Babies.”
Hillary should give him an honorary campaign position for that little bon mot.