Here comes universal health care

PART ONE: DO IT FOR THE KIDS... Very soon, in keeping with Obama's campaign promises and in retaliation for two Bush vetoes Congress will again introduce legislation to revamp the SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. No longer will actual children from actual low-income households be the only ones cared for under the proposed plan, but also ‘children’ up to age 30, whether they still live with their parents or not. Additionally, the wage requirements for households receiving SCHIP assistance will be raised considerably---as much as $80,000 or more per year.

It is a tiresome task to debate liberals on health care, if your only point to make is that hospitals, emergency care facilities and clinics are going broke due to the amount of healthcare that is delivered each year to people with no ability to pay. It does no good to enlighten these folks about the extraordinary costs our medical community has absorbed in providing non-retrievable costs for care to illegal immigrants. Liberals in your neighborhood, nor those in Washington will even entertain this thought process. They will tell us we need to be more compassionate, yet they have no suggestion as to how to pay for this other than higher taxes, and ignore the fact that they, too, are paying the price, not just the evil conservatives. To explain that the more free health care that is given out, the more everyone else must pay, is an exercise in futility. Obama has repeatedly stated he intends to reduce the cost of health care. That begs the question of how he plans to continue to provide state of the art diagnostic and treatment-based healthcare to millions that have no obligation to pay for it and still have it cost less. This expenditure crisis regarding non- citizens, if addressed and solved even to some extent, could go a long way in reducing overall costs, easing the freight that hospitals, insurance companies and those they cover, and self-pay individuals must absorb to provide for folks that benefit from the best healthcare available in the world.

There is little interest at any level to examine the costs incurred in caring for illegals, such as the requirement of staffing hospitals with equal numbers of Spanish speaking people, printing forms and patient education literature in another language, signage throughout a facility, etc. There is no interest in the ‘anchor baby’ matter which grants instant citizenship to both baby and parents once a child is delivered in this country. Having worked in a major hospital in Colorado, I frequently observed unmarried, non-English speaking women and teenage girls that deliberately became pregnant and then ‘sold’ the paternity to a man without legal status. Men will pay money in order to come into a hospital and sign the birth certificate documents because they gain immediate citizenship. Many of these women were recent arrivals in our country. Few had prenatal care or proper nutrition, and some required blood transfusions, surgery and other intensive medical services. Subsequently, it was common for their babies to born early or at a low birth weight, requiring days, weeks, or months in the NICU unit. Once the birth certificate was signed and processed, mother, baby and father were now of legal status and a Spanish-speaking social worker directed them to the WIC program, assisted in getting them signed up for Medicaid and even made referrals to subsidized housing complexes and other government services. Depending on the length of stay of both mother and baby and the services required to return them to good health if that was an issue, the hospital charges can range between anywhere in the thousands to sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Conversely, the new mother in the unit that has health insurance or is a self-pay patient, must then absorb a certain amount of this cost because the Medicaid and Medicare programs can no longer reimburse at a level to sustain the hospital’s costs.

As change comes to this issue, we look toward covering more and more people without concern of ability to pay. The SCHIP program funding is so ironic it is laughable. These additional ‘children’ from families making up to $80,000 will be financed through increase in cigarette taxes. Yet, in cities and states around the country, smoking is being banned and is often illegal. For over 40 years, we’ve been bombarded with warnings to not smoke. How does Congress expect the observer to interpret this? Should we all start smoking now in order to raise enough tax to cover all the additional children? Which is it? Smoking is unhealthy and should be banned, or should we encourage more smoking in order to fund an expanded government project?

Kids are basically inexpensive to care for in terms of healthcare costs. Unless a child is seriously ill, the average child can go through early years with not much more care than immunizations, routine medical and dental check-up’s, and occasional care for childhood illnesses or minor injury. There are a multitude of private organizations that work diligently to raise money to provide medical care for kids in need and kids that are seriously ill. If we want government intervention in our healthcare decisions, a child in need is certainly one situation that prompts most people to agree that help should be made available from one source or another. The Medicaid system has been in place for some time to make sure poor children do not suffer needlessly or go without necessary care. As with all government-subsidized programs, there is rampant fraud and abuse. Thus, the system is bankrupt and there is potential that those in true need will soon not be able to get it. Americans would not deny a child healthcare. That mindset is not in our make-up and should never be. We have programs in place to care for the misfortunate and we need to reshape them so the services continue. Adding people up to age 30 from households making up to $80,000 only takes healthcare resources away from poor children that have no source of help otherwise.

Tom Daschle, who has no healthcare experience other than strong opinion, is going to head up our future in terms of how health services are delivered. There will no longer be any accountability in terms of parents making sure that they set aside even a small portion of money to prepare for inevitable trips to the doctor their children will need. Poor families that have nothing to set aside need to rely on Medicaid and other assistance. Mr. Daschle does not talk about reform or how future funding of Medicaid will occur. Rather than fix an existing program that was initiated for the very purpose of calling on taxpayers to help those among us less fortunate, he instead sets about to create more layers of government red tape that has a proven record of failure.

Somewhere along the road to entitlement for most every aspect of our lives, we stopped thinking that we should plan for and provide medical care for our children. We may save money for household emergencies or auto repair, and certainly have no qualms about putting a vacation or tickets to a ballgame on a credit card, but when it comes to sustaining good health and recognizing our personal obligations to obtain it, we sometimes fail the test miserably.

There was a time in this country when ‘children’ in their twenties, approaching age 30, were long gone from their parents’ scope of responsibility and were out on their own, making their own way and providing for themselves. Those that are disabled or have other significant health-related issues have historically received assistance from Medicaid. There are already provisions in place to care for those that cannot care for themselves. Any 20-something person that expects the taxpayers to pick up their tab for healthcare when they are able to do so on their own exemplifies the abuse that will become more commonplace as new government interference is forced upon our country.