Medicaid for kids: a test for Congressional Dems

The Timestoday flags a letter to Dem and GOP Congressional leaders from 13 governors on the parlous condition of SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) which, like the rest of Medicaid, is jointly funded by state and Federal governments.

My impression is that part of the reason is that some states have established a system more generous than that anticipated when the scheme was set up (under Clinton, from memory).

On the other hand, compared with many budget items, the shortfall is chickenfeed:

The federal government spends $5 billion a year on the Children's Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush wants to continue that level of spending, and he is seeking an "additional allotment" of $4.8 billion over the next five years.

That is considerably less than what states would need to continue their programs with current eligibility rules and benefits. New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show that the states face shortfalls of $700 million this year and a total shortage of $13.4 billion from 2008 to 2012.

Barely enough to keep the Pentagon in paperclips.

The text of the Bush sermon has been taken from Mark 4:25:

For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Let's see how the Dems shape up.

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Can You Believe This President?

I believe that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people, of course I still believe that a man's word is his bond, and a handshake is as good as a written contract.

Naïve, yea guess so to a degree. But aren't we all?

I have some big ideas for growing the progressive movement and in turn changing the way America is governed, and while we all wish that everyone was on the same wave link, we see small men like this President who has small ideas that don't a make a whit of difference in the lives of working Americans.

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Bush White House: Stick the Old People in HMOs

With the holiday season now in full swing, one might expect the traits of charity and benevolence would be the marker of our time. Yet in the Thanksgiving issue of The New York Times we learn from Robert Pear that the Bush administration wants to reduce the health benefits going to many of our nation's seniors and shove them into unresponsive and overly bureaucratic HMOs.

A federal advisory panel says that long-term care for aging baby boomers threatens to bankrupt Medicaid, and it recommends sweeping changes to rein in costs, including greater use of managed care for the sickest Medicaid recipients.

The proposals set up a likely clash between the new Democratic Congress and the Bush administration, which has sent strong signals that it will seek big savings in Medicaid next year.

Panel members adopted the recommendations last week, by a vote of 11 to 1, and are drafting a report to be submitted next month to Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services. Mr. Leavitt created the panel in May 2005 and is receptive to many of its proposals.

There is little question that the government must endeavor to rework some of the federal entitlement programs to ensure that they are sufficiently funded and not excessively costly. This far Democrats and Republicans agree.

However in their ideological battle to destroy almost all things government, Republicans want to take this move one step further, either privatizing the programs that have helped America prosper for the last several decades or decreasing their level of service to the point at which they are both unuseful and unpopular with voters. Whether it is sucking the lifeblood out of Social Security through so-called "private accounts" or forcing ill seniors out of nursing homes and into unwieldy HMOs, the aim is the same: undermining the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and making America a fundamentally less efficient and less fair country.

Of course the plan laid out by the President's commission would be dead on arrival in the Democratic Congress. In fact, it would have been dead on arrival even during the current Republican Congress, just as was the partial privatization of Social Security.

While the American people want to see the long-term deficits in these programs substantially reduced, they are clear in their determination to do so without placing all of the burden on the needy, as the aforementioned panel recommends. Though there is not a large amount of polling on Medicaid or even the Medicare program in general, the numbers regarding Social Security are likely indicative of Americans' general sentiments towards the entitlement programs. Looking at the somewhat recent surveys on the subject, Americans overwhelmingly trust Democratic plans for the program over Republican ones, opposing private accounts while strongly supporting an increase to the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes and slowing the rate of growth in benefits for the well-to-do, for instance.

Thanksgiving or not, the American people are a benevolent people. And the more often Republicans suggest policies that would punish the poor to help pay for the disastrous policies of the current administration (much of which has predominantly favored the wealthy and the extremely wealthy), the less likely the GOP will be able to return to the governing majority it enjoyed for the better part of the last decade.

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BREAKING: Bad News on Children's Health Care

We've been beating the drum here pretty loudly on the issue of children's health care--and today will be no different. The Campaign for Children's Health Care (of which we're a partner) released today a new report that paints a grim picture of the state of children's health insurance in America. You can check out the report here.

Bottom line: there are too many uninsured kids in America. By our numbers, there are currently more than 9 million uninsured kids in this country; in other words, one out of every nine kids has no health insurance. Moreover, for the first time since 1998, the number of uninsured kids has gone up, from 10.8% to 11.2%.

If you just can't wait to take action, click here. Otherwise, make the jump.

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More Medicaid madness

When you're a military megacorp, Uncle Sam is happy to stuff billions in your pockets without troubling much whether or not your wonder-weapon is value for money, or even whether or not it works at all.

When you're a Medicaid recipient, no sum is too small that it can't be chiseled or finagled away in an ostentatious display of fiscal prudence.

The Timeslast Sunday flagged a proposal in the Bush Budget for Financial Year 2007 (that is y/e September 30 2007) for a change in the rules to cut the amounts paid to Medicaid providers (hospitals, nursing homes and the like) and reduce the limit on state taxes on hospitals and nursing homes from 6% to 3%.

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