Thursday, September 27, 2007

Most OK Effort to Fund Kids Health Insurance

State funding for health insurance for children of low income families is set to expire by month's end, though a temporary measure to keep it active has been approved by Congress and the President. Blending together health care costs, higher cigarette taxes and the 2008 elections, this issue is one of rewards and perils for politicians. Full funding for the SCHIP program, which may be renamed CHIP, is a priority for Americans and GOP supporters too, not just Democrats, according to several recent polls and studies.

Republican pollsters Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates found that by a 2-1 margin, (62 percent to 31 percent) GOP voters favor reauthorizing and strengthening SCHIP. The poll was a national sample of 1,000 Republican voters taken on behalf of First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy group for children and families.

The poll also found that GOP voters, by a 4-to-3 margin, are less likely to re-elect members of Congress who oppose the legislation.

In another First Focus poll of 800 "very likely" voters, GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that by nearly a 4-1 margin (66 percent to 17 percent) respondents were less likely to re-elect senators or congressional representatives who oppose legislation to cut the number of uninsured children."

Paying for the increase in enrollment would come from a 61-cent increase in tobacco taxes. No increases in funding for the program, as well as allowing it to expire will also cost Americans big bucks:

"The Institute of Medicine estimates that a lack of health insurance accounts for 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year and that taxpayers foot 65 percent of health care costs for the uninsured through subsidies to hospitals and clinics. Uninsured children are also four times more likely than insured youngsters to appear in emergency rooms with avoidable illness, said Rich Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association."

Comments from those who see the program as another Evil Step Into Socialized Medicine claims the bill's passage will give benefits to families who earn over $80,000 a year - but that is not true. That amount is only applicable in New York state and only if their request on the increase is approved:

"The bill essentially sets an income ceiling of three times the poverty rate [defined by the Census Bureau as $20,650 for a family of four] for a family of four - $61,950. Beyond that, the federal government would not pay a state its full SCHIP match, which averages about 70 percent. New York state is seeking a waiver that would. allow its residents to qualify if their income is not above four times the poverty rate - $82,600 for a family of four. The current administration or future administrations would have to approve that request. New Jersey would still be allowed to cover families with incomes three and one-half times the poverty rate - $72,275 for a family of four."

Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp (R) is promoting his plan to extend the program for 18 months and try and resolve some kind of compromise in the interim, and which would provide the chance to push this entire debate out and away from next year's elections:

"That is why I co-sponsored the SCHIP Extension Act to extend and fully fund SCHIP for an additional 18 months and increase the federal funding for the program by 33 percent."

A Rasmussen poll worth considering shows that Americans want changes aplenty in healthcare costs:

"Forty-four percent (44%) of American adults say that health care services should be made available for free to all Americans. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 39% disagree and 17% are not sure.

Fifty-two percent (52%) say that reducing health care costs is a higher priority than making sure everyone is insured. Thirty-nine percent (39%) take the opposite view.

The survey also found that 47% favor requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Thirty-three percent (33%) are opposed. Democrats favor this approach by a three-to-one margin. A plurality of Republicans are opposed while a plurality of unaffiliateds are supportive.

Fifty-one percent (51%) say that if someone can’t afford health insurance the government should match payments to help pay their premiums.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of voters rate health care as a Very Important Issue for Election 2008. Fifty-one percent (51%) trust Democrats more on this issue while 35% trust Republicans."

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