Headlines – 10/3/07

  • President Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill (Children’s Health Bill) today. It is not clear how long many States will be able to finance children’s health care without the federal dollars. Bush claims that SCHIP is one more step toward federal health care for everybody. The Democrats and a some Republicans argue that the SCHIP expansion is a moral and needed law to protect our children.  The Senate seems to have the votes to override, but the House is short as of now.  Read more here.
  • The second item is from last week.  The United Auto Workers ended their strike against G.M. after a deal was made.  The sticking point was the $55 billion projected debt that G.M. was going to owe on health care expenses.  The agreement allows G.M. to move the debt off the books into something called a VEBA.  I don’t know what that all entails, but the point I take from it all – health care is a big issue not just to the uninsured but to corporate America as well.  Read More here.
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10 responses to “Headlines – 10/3/07

  1. Lucas, it’s unfortunate that your characterization of Bush’s veto employed the same slanted rhetoric coming from congressional leaders. Contrary to your statement (“Bush claims that SCHIP is one more step toward federal health care for everybody.”), the Times article states that Bush believes the PROPOSED EXPANSION of SCHIP is one more step toward federal health care for everybody. The 67% increase in SCHIP would conceivably provide Federal funding for many children who already have health insurance (one of three new SCHIP enrollees, per an administration estimate). There’s little doubt that he would have authorized funding of the program at current levels and will likely even negotiate an increase in funding to accommodate higher costs. But you apparently were interested in painting Bush as the meany who hates children.

    It’s expected that politicians will mislead, omit information and manipulate data for the purpose of denigrating the opposition party. But it does a disservice to the public discourse and it would be helpful to your readers if you could avoid it.

  2. Bob,

    I’m sorry you feel that my portrayal of the SCHIP veto was slanted. I probably should have added the word “expansion” as you pointed out. Further, I agree that politics is one of the driving forces behind this legislation and this veto. The Democrats are definitely working this issue for all that it is worth, but many of the backers of this legislation also have a long history of promoting health care expansion especially for children. Now you may have guessed that the administration’r rhetoric leaves out many numbers as well. When discussing “crowd out” the numbers go both ways. First, some who drop private coverage for SCHIP do so beacuse their current coverage is inadequate. Second, let me give you some numbers. In previous evaluations of SCHIP it was determined that 29% of children had private coverage in the 6 months prior to obtaining SCHIP. I believe that is the Administrations number that they throw around. However, 13% (almost half of the 29%) lost their private insurance not because of a choice, but because they lost their jobs or other life events. And another 8% dropped their coverage because it was actually unafforadble. One more point is that when your raise eligibility rates up the income ladder as a positive side-effect you get higher actual enrollment rates of the poorer children. So, Bob, I do believe that a lot of this rhetoric and political games, and I know that even the best of us tend to show our cards a bit more than we should, but I think any reader of this blog knows that I will favor erring on the side of covering too many people than too little. Our President feels otherwise.

  3. Hi Lucas–just a link to Jim Wallis’ comments on this:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2007/10/bushs-schip-veto-is-morally-un.html

    I’m about to read it now, would welcome your take on it.

  4. JTB,

    Jim Wallis is using the ethical, moral, religious argument for universal health care, and on a personal level, I find the argument compelling, but as a generality, it glosses over the details that make a policy and ignore the various faiths, view points, etc that make-up our country. In making a case for universal health care I tend to stay away from arguments that specifically use a specific religion. However, I would like to highlight at least one comment made on the link you gave us. One of the people commenting referred to the block grant aspect of SCHIP. This refers to the funding mechanism. In simple terms, the States receive a block grant (a set amount of money) based on various characteristics of the State. The State then has a great deal of freedom to use that money as long as it meets some fairly loose federal guidelines. The point is that SCHIP is an amazing compromise between liberals and conservatives. It’s a “liberal” program with a “conservative” funding scheme. It is not federalized health care, and it is a stretch to say that an expansion of SCHIP is one more step toward federalized health care. If it’s a step at all it’s an awfully small step.

    Check out the NY Times editorial on SCHIP. I know many do not feel that the Times is the most partial opinion out there, but the facts used here do seem to be correct and used properly.

  5. As someone who has expressed support for government-mandated universal health care, it may seem contradictory for me to oppose expansion of SCHIP on the grounds that it’s a step toward federalized health care. So let me explain my rationale.

    Expanding SCHIP beyond the current poverty-threshold eligibility group begins to move us toward federal funding (no, let’s more accurately call this “taxpayer funding”) of health care without regard for the recipient’s capacity for self-funding. In other words, it’s moving toward a wealth transfer, absent evidence that these new recipients are unable to provide health care insurance on their own.

    I’m content to wait for a new administration that will put a priority on fixing our health care system with comprehensive reforms instead of band-aids such as SCHIP and the similarly unfunded Medicare drug bill. SCHIP will get funded, at a level above it’s current level but lower than the proposed expansion. I think that’s an appropriate stopgap until we can implement some real reforms.

    As for the ethical, moral and religious arguments for universal health care, there never has been a sufficiently clear and consistent set of mores or religious tenets, universally accepted by our society, that can be used as a basis for deciding issues such as this. The arguments for and against UHC espoused on JTB’s website attest to this. Heck, we can’t even agree on “Thou shalt not kill”, as evidenced by the death penalty argument. Implementation of UHC will ultimately be an ugly political battle, with entrenched parties on all sides fighting to safeguard their self-interest. But that’s the inevitable basis for legislation in our democracy, especially when government elects to expand their mandate in a way that impinges on our wallets.

  6. I might add that implementation of the Democratic expansion of SCHIP would have simply added to the number of people with an existing self-interest to protect, thereby making consensus on a comprehensive solution that much more difficult.

  7. I don’t think that an argument from a specific religious viewpoint has to tap in to some (admittedly nonexistent) societal moral consensus in order to be effective. To make an argument for the morality of universal health care from a specifically Christian point of view, publicly, is to add this one specific voice to the general cacophony in hopes that some will find it persuasive, and others will find an ally in achieving the hoped-for goal while not necessarily endorsing (or even respecting) the Christian reasoning for it. Too often however the way that such specifically religious arguments are made is rhetorically exclusive–so that no one is persuaded who wasn’t already, and no one who can’t endorse the reasoning is invited to help achieve the goal. Despite this, I can’t help but think that the characterization of this (or any other policy-making) as an ugly morass of conflicting self-interest underlines the need for a voice willing to speak up on behalf of the other…particularly when the other in question is voiceless. Sure, that complicates things further…but in a good way.

  8. Lucas, my point is that the ambiguities inherent in every religious sect preclude someone from employing a given sect’s beliefs as a basis for supporting or opposing virtually any public policy issue. If you’re a Christian, you can choose to support “An eye for an eye” or “Turn the other cheek”, depending on whether you are arguing for a vindictive or compassionate public policy.

    JTB’s website was full of arguments from the faithful who disagreed with one another on the issue. Is it “God helps those who help themselves” or “He who helps the least among us…”? (My apologies for my lack of familiarity with the scriptures but you get my point.) Choosing to speak for a large group (e.g., ALL Christians) is a dishonest way to try to strengthen your argument. It complicates things…and in a bad way.

  9. Oops, I addressed my response to Lucas and it should have been JTB. Sorry.

  10. Sure, anyone who claims to arrogantly speak on behalf of ALL [fill in the blank]s is bound to just piss people off instead of contributing helpfully to the larger discourse. But saying what you think is best, for the reasons you actually think so, is simply being honest. Suppose I support universal health care for reasons entirely theological. If I want to advocate for what I think is best in the larger public discourse, do I have to make up a bunch of other non-theological reasons just to state my opinion? That’s absurd…and definitely dishonest. And it doesn’t work, because you just end up being incoherent.

    I certainly don’t think that univocality from any religious group is a prerequisite for making an argument based on religious belief for a certain policy. Perhaps internal disagreement within a religion undermines such stances–or perhaps not. I’m not, BTW, assuming that religious arguments enjoy any sort of privilege in public discourse…quite the opposite, for reasons clearly appreciated above (i.e., not everyone can agree on the foundational assumptions, so quite a few will feel no obligation to listen or agree). But they are not out of place.

    And just for sake of clarity, it’s not my website; I have nothing to do with beliefnet.com other than happening across a link to the article above.

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