We Don’t Need No Health Insurance

Hey! Teacher! Leave Those Kids Alone!

But I digress.

My colleague Jason at Foresight has a clear and terrific post about the Bush Administration’s ideological war against expanding health insurance for uninsured children (As of 2005, approximately 17% of kids in the U.S. are uninsured). While he takes pains to explain the role of private healthcare insurers versus government programs, his strongest words are in the last three paragraphs regarding how the Bushies seek to pit them against one another (my emphases):

The worst part about the administration’s argument, however, is the claim that CHIP undermines private insurance. Whether this is true or not, it makes private insurance a good in and of itself, and weighs the value of providing universal coverage to children against the value of protecting private insurance companies. Whatever you believe about the importance of competition and market discipline, most Americans do not believe that private insurance companies who cannot make a profit except by providing care to young children have a god-given right to exist. Children have a right to health coverage, whether it comes from the public or the private sector. If private insurers cannot make enough of a profit on their paying adult customers to sustain themselves, then guaranteeing them access to poor children is hardly the job of the government.

But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bush administration thinks it is. Whereas most people think it is the government’s job to correct market failures, like the fact that private companies are not providing insurance to the poor at a price they can afford, the administration thinks it is the government’s job to subsidize private companies to do things the government can do better. This is why our tax dollars are currently subsidizing private insurers to provide Medicare “Advantage� services which they cannot produce as cheaply as the government. And this is probably why the administration would rather not pay for an expansion of CHIP: it won’t help the private insurance companies increase profits.

Might the administration be putting private profit ahead of America’s children? You didn’t hear it from me.

You can say you heard it from me, I’m always willing to throw myself under the ideological bus! (Though props to Jason for laying out the argument so succinctly!)


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