Sunday, February 8, 2009

Obama Signs Children's Health Insurance Bill, Reversing Disgraceful Bush Vetoes



Among the most disgraceful and heartless of George Bush's domestic stances was the repeated veto of the State Children's Health Insurance (S-chip) bill. The S-chip program helps families who earn too much to qualify for Medicare, but still cannot afford private health insurance.

The last veto, in October 2007, was even criticized by several Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch of Utah, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who said that Bush's vision for the insurance plan “...won’t even cover kids on the program today, much less reach out to cover more kids.”

Of course, the Bush administration hardly had as its priority covering as many kids as possible who needed health insurance. Its energy was taken up with such items as cutting the capital gains tax. One can be well assured that the children of those who benefited from such a cut already had health insurance.

Paul Krugman, with his usual insight, pointed out in "An Immoral Philosophy" (7/30/07) what lay at the heart of Bush's veto–and at the heart of the conservative outlook: the hatred of government and the fear that it may actually improve people's lives:

...[Mr. Bush] wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn’t. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan “in any form,” because “its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.”

It was therefore gratifying to see President Obama recently reverse the Bush vetoes with his recent signing of a bill to extend health insurance to millions of low-income children. The bill will continue coverage for seven million, while enabling states to cover more than four million more by 2013, paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

While Bush said that access to health care is no problem because "After all, you just go to an emergency room," Obama said, as shown in the video above, "No child in America should be receiving his or her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night." In contrast to the Republican philosophy, Obama eloquently spoke of the responsibility we have to the youngest and most vulnerable: "In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to trade-offs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations."

Finally, where Bush viewed S-chip negatively as "...a strategy to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care,” Obama views it positively as "...the first step...a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American." May this crucial goal come to pass.

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