Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Path to Socialized Medicine?

Congress recently passed a bipartisan bill with a goal of providing subsidized healthcare to millions of uninsured children in the US. The bill would fund the hugely successful State Children's Health Insurance Program, a joint state-federal effort covering 6.6 million people. The program is designed for families that earn too much to qualify for Medicare, but not enough to afford their own coverage. The bill would provide the program with $35 billion over five years to allow an additional 4 million children, under the age of 18 and under these circumstances, into the program.

President Bush had hinted that he was leaning towards vetoing the bill, and, on October 3rd, he did just that. The administration's argument consisted of claims that the bill was too costly, and that it took the program too far from its original purpose. I might be mistaken, but wasn't its purpose to provide health insurance to the needy children of the United States?

And as far as the cost, that's no big deal. We could always just borrow and borrow, until we are forced to raise the national debt limit, and then we can borrow some more. Right? Well, that seems to be the precedent being used by the government. Congress did just that last week, raising the debt cap by $850 billion to an astounding $9.815 trillion, in order to fund the ongoing war in Iraq. Can we really not afford $35 billion for our children, our future?

The administration also argued that the bill would be a move towards socialized medicine. They believe that expanding the program to higher income families would have ramifications. They believe the bill would entice families covered by private insurers to switch to the government-funded program, putting greater strain of the program.

But the bill was designed to counter that, by providing incentives for states to cover their poorest children first. And as far as it being the first step towards socialized medicine, it is way too early to know if we are indeed headed in that path. It is a fallacy to think that we would be in the midst of socialized medicine if that particular bill became a law. It may be a little less capitalistic, but it gives a lot of children the helping hand they have been hoping for.

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