NPR logo The 'What If?' of SCHIP

The 'What If?' of SCHIP

So yesterday I had to dash out of the office AGAIN to run to the doctor — different kid this time. Not trying to tell you all my business — or hers — but I may have mentioned, I do have twins, they are little, and they have to go to the doctor with some frequency, some of which you can anticipate, some of which you cannot (in our case bee stings, very bad rash ... ).

Here's what occurred to me: my biggest issue was getting out of here and getting them seen by my preferred providers. But once I got appointments it was just a matter of getting them there. Once I'm there, it's taken care of; I think my job is pretty well done. I pull out my co-pay, drop off the prescriptions, and feel pretty good about being super mom (or at least competent mom ... and yeah, I know, take the antibiotic until it's finished ... yada yada yada).

What about the millions of people for whom it's not that simple? I thought, as I pulled out my $20 co-pay, and then another $20 for prescriptions, just how lucky we are. I was so worried on the way to the doctor; so relieved on my way out. And part of the relief was knowing I could take care of my child to the best of my ability.

That's what led me to SCHIP. As you know, we like to do politics on Friday ... and one of the issues in front of us for this week's Political Chat: the boring-sounding health program that has become the focus of furious partisan and ideological disagreement. The Democrats want to expand this program to provide health insurance for kids just above poverty level; (most) Republicans say that's an unwarranted expansion of government and there are better ways to accomplish the same goal. The President vetoed the Democrat-sponsored bill saying if you want to talk about health care, talk about all of it; Dems running for President say that???s exactly what they plan to do.

I'm not one to dismiss partisan or political wrangling as unimportant. Hel-lo ... politics is the vehicle by which government happens. And there are legitimate differences of opinion about how to best get health care to the biggest possible number of people. Market incentives? Single payer? A combination of risk pools?

Anyway, we look forward to that conversation on Friday. So, I want to ask, what kind of policy discussion best serves your interests? Do you want to know the nitty-gritty of details? Or why an issue is going this way or that?

Let me know ... and both kids are feeling better thanks ... and so is Mom.

Before I forget, I do want to point out the diversity of guests on today's show. We had a look back at the life of one of America's best-known Native American activists ... and a visit with one of America's least known, but most influential, African American filmmakers. Plus ... a white mother struggling to make sense of her daughter's awful encounter with the juvenile justice system — a case that inadvertently got caught up in race, but isn't necessarily about race — and our monthly visit with the magazine mavens! (We'll miss Betty Cortina, editorial director of Latina Magazine. Betty — you???re fabulous! Keep us posted on your next move.)



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Yes Michel,
I do want to know the nitty-gritty details of what makes a policy good or bad for America. This year I have had health insurance for the first time in my adult life---my 46 year old, just above the poverty line, white girl life, that is. Thanks to the new Massachusetts state law that requires every citizen of Mass. to have health insure, I qualified for a state subsidized plan and have had many health issues cared for this year that I could not afford to deal with???in some cases for years.

I have friends who have turned down pay increases at their jobs because they would lose their Medicaid health benefits for their kids if they made more money. The critics of SCHIP don???t seem to understand that many of us are living just above the poverty line???that a family of 4 or 5 living on an annual income of $80,000 could use some help from the Federal government with health care costs as they go up and up. The government has no problem subsidizing the car companies and the banks when they falter.

In regards to your interview today with the film maker Charles Burnett, I was especially moved when you asked Mr. Burnett if he had it all to do over again would he chose to become a film maker and he said no he would not. It is a very hard thing, I think, to look back at your life, clearly in Burnett???s case, a life of passionate choices to make films about things he really believed in and felt strongly were important for the society to know about???to look back and think it wasn???t worth the struggle, the compromises, the lack of financial success. I???ve come to that conclusion myself in the last three years, leaving the art world and going back to college to get a degree in political science, so I can to teach at the community college level.

I really appreciate your interview style, Michel. The questions you ask draw out such thoughtful answers from your guests. And I end up thinking about these discussions throughout the day.

Sent by Sami Keats | 9:48 PM | 10-17-2007

Hi Michel! Thanks for bringing up and tracking this issue. You're right. I have a 7 year old 2 weeks ago he had strep and a fever of 102.7. I am WELL covered for health care and my child is healthy and was out of pain in short order. Mothers (and fathers) without health insurance ought to be able to do the same.

Pres. Bush says that he wants to force states to get 95% of all those eligible enrolled and to "fix" the current SCHIP and Medicaid programs before approving an expansion. I heard a quote (haven't researched it yet, but will) that Medicare a program that does not require enrollement, just a birthday, is only at 93% enrollement of all eligible people (perhaps address changes, etc keep this number below 100%). So if that information is correct, it might appear that another impossible bar was identified that could never be met. This administration is so planful in it's "War on the Poor!"

Sent by Vanetta A. | 1:43 AM | 10-18-2007

SCHIP is not insurance - it is a gateway to insurance. In CA, Healthy Families (SCHIP) allows eligibles to enroll in Kaiser, Blue Cross, United Healthcare or the local managed care HMO. These are the same safety net providers Bush spoke of as being hurt by expanding the system. This makes for a lame excuse to take healthcare away from children born in the US to undocumented parents. But then why would the truth be told now at this late date?

Sent by Barbara S. | 10:30 AM | 10-18-2007

Congress has written a bitter prescription to American children that should never be filled.

Congress has abandoned its promise to afford every citizen life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the wealthiest nation prioritizes excessive spending on a morally and fiscally bankrupt war in Iraq while the neediest children go without health insurance, we have forfeited our commitment to America.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 81% of Americans endorse this bipartisan legislation that would have preserved coverage for six million children currently covered by CHIP, extended coverage to nearly four million uninsured children, as well as ensured dental coverage and mental health parity. This fully funded bill would have allocated $100 million in grants for new outreach activities to states, local governments, schools, community-based organizations, and safety-net providers.

The Bible teaches us that a new day will dawn when the "last will become first and the first will be last." Today, Congress and President Bush have banished our children and the underserved to the back of the line. We can and must do better.

The Congressional Black Caucus, 43 Members from 21 states, representing 40 million Americans, is resolute in our position to ensure health care for 10 million children and to protect the overall health and wellness of our most vulnerable citizens.

Sent by The Congressional Black Caucus | 5:21 PM | 10-18-2007

For those who are against the SCHIP legislation because they believe middle income families can well-afford healthcare, you are sadly mistaken. I'm a teacher who taught at a school in a middle income neighborhood. My students needed to fill out a field trip permission form and indicate what insurance they were under. I was shocked at how many parents indicated that their child was not covered under any insurance plan because they couldn't afford it.

Think about the students in your child's class who probably have no health insurance. This is the shame of our nation. Health insurance should not be a privilege--it should be a right.

Sent by Cecily | 7:55 PM | 10-18-2007