January 26 2009
Carrie L. Lukas
Proponents of expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) claim that it is necessary to make sure that every child in the country has health insurance and access to quality medical care. As Congresswoman Diana DeGette, one of the bill's sponsors, said, "The great majority of American people believe we should give kids health insurance."1
While, of course, everyone recognizes that children need healthcare and support the goal of all children having quality health insurance, the fundamental issue at stake in the debate over SCHIP expansion is government's role in our healthcare system. Indeed, a primary effect of this bill would be to greatly expand government's role in acting as a health insurance provider.
Thus far, the federal role in the provision of healthcare has focused on those (such as the poor and elderly) who have the greatest challenges in our private system, in which most Americans obtain insurance through their employer. The legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives (H.R. 2, "Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009," passed by a vote of 289-139) and similar legislation which will soon be considered by the Senate, would expand the pool of those who rely on government for health insurance to include children from middle-class families and some adults.
If policymakers want to make it easier for more Americans to obtain health insurance or to receive quality healthcare, then instead of just focusing on expanding the government run system, they should take a fresh look at our healthcare system as a whole and government's role in it. Instead of moving toward a single-payer system with government at healthcare's center, policymakers should pursue policies that bolster the private marketplace, make insurance more affordable, and encourage our healthcare system to become more responsive to individual needs.