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health insurance, ny times op ed from tuesday 8/29

updated fri 31 aug 07


Richard Aerni on wed 29 aug 07

An op ed column from the NY Times yesterday by Paul Krugman, an economist
from Princeton, NJ, about health care. Warning: his views do not often
coincide with the current administrations, so if differing viewpoints offend
you, please delete...

Richard Aerni
Rochester, NY

Op-Ed Columnist
TimesSelect A Socialist Plot

Published: August 27, 2007

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press
release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could
afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free
government-run education.

They'd have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do
send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age
children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the
private sector: if public schools weren't available, many families would pay
for private schools instead.

So let's end this un-American system and make education what it should be -
a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we
shouldn't have any government mandates that force children to get educated,
either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of
America's education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist

O.K., in case you're wondering, I haven't lost my mind, I'm drawing an
analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled "The Middle-Class Welfare
Kid Next Door," is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children's
Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will "displace
private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage."

And Rudy Giuliani's call for "free-market solutions, not socialist models"
was about health care, not education.

But thinking about how we'd react if they said the same things about
education helps dispel the fog of obfuscation right-wingers use to obscure
the true nature of their position on children's health.

The truth is that there's no difference in principle between saying that
every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every
American child is entitled to adequate health care. It's just a matter of
historical accident that we think of access to free K-12 education as a
basic right, but consider having the government pay children's medical bills
"welfare," with all the negative connotations that go with that term.

And conservative opposition to giving every child in this country access to
health care is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.

Here's what I mean: The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is
entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives
usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former
chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of
liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of
conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be "to
give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes
differ wildly."

But a child who doesn't receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn
't receive an adequate education, doesn't have the same shot - he or she
doesn't have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.

And insurance is crucial to receiving adequate health care. President Bush
may think that lacking insurance is no problem - "I mean, people have access
to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room" -
but the reality is that the nine million children in America who don't have
health insurance often have unmet medical or dental needs, don't have a
regular place for medical care, and frequently have to delay care because of

Now, the public understands the importance of health insurance, even if Mr.
Bush doesn't. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an amazing
94 percent of the public regards the fact that many children in America lack
health insurance as either a "serious" or a "very serious" problem.

So how can conservatives defend the indefensible, and oppose giving children
the health care they need? By trying the old welfare queen in her Cadillac
strategy (albeit without the racial innuendo that made it so effective when
Reagan used it). That is, to divert public sympathy from people who really
need help, they're trying to change the subject to the supposedly
undeserving recipients of government aid. Hence the emphasis on the evils of
"middle-class welfare."

Proponents of an expansion of children's health care have, as they should,
responded to this strategy with facts and figures. Congressional Budget
Office estimates show that S-chip expansion would, in fact, primarily
benefit those who need it most: the great majority of children receiving
coverage under an expanded program would otherwise have been uninsured.

But the more fundamental response should be, so what?

We offer free education, and don't worry about middle-class families getting
benefits they don't need, because that's the only way to ensure that every
child gets an education - and giving every child a fair chance is the
American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the
same reason.

On Tue, 28 Aug 2007 13:43:41 -0600, James and Sherron Bowen

>From the Census Bureau Press Release