Leavitt unwisely wants cuts in children’s health program

Although Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt’s June 6 op-ed (Special Section: Healthcare) called for the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, in actuality he was advocating for restricting coverage or even directly cutting hundreds of thousands of children from this very successful program. Why would the federal government turn back the clock and turn its back on what has been so successful for the health and well-being of more than 6 million children this year?

If the clock must be turned back, I urge Secretary Leavitt to look to 2004 when President Bush was campaigning for re-election and promised to improve the health of children by saying, “America’s children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government’s health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.”

The administration actually proposed $1 billion for such an outreach and enrollment campaign in its 2006 budget. Now is the time to live up to that campaign promise to ensure children get “the health care they need.” …

Unfortunately, Secretary Leavitt’s op-ed raises the notion that we should limit SCHIP, which has been so successful, and somehow reform private-sector insurance in a variety of manners which may have very little or nothing to do with children’s health. The irony is that he is effectively saying that we should restrict SCHIP coverage for children in states such as Iowa with its Hawk-I program, which delivers care to children through Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa and John Deere Health Plan, so that we can instead reform the insurance market so families can buy coverage through health plans like Wellmark and John Deere. This is a distinction without difference and makes little sense for children, as the first model is clearly working and working well.

The administration has also proposed tax credits that provide funding to families at twice the rate of individuals. That fails to recognize the fact that the cost of family coverage is actually 2.7 times the cost of individual coverage, and therefore would terribly under-fund care to children and families in comparison to childless adults. That clearly is not a better alternative for children either.

In short, SCHIP is the one major healthcare success story over the past 10 years, as it has proved to effectively reduce the ranks of uninsured children by one-third. CHIP has provided cost-effective health coverage to millions of children with coverage that the private market by itself has been unable to provide. We should strengthen SCHIP, which is a public-private partnership exactly like the Medicare private drug plans (PDPs) that Secretary Leavitt so often touts …

~From Bruce Lesley, president, First Focus, Alexandria, Va.

Connie Mack is no Marky Mark

I’ll admit that I find your In the Know page the most interesting in The Hill. On the flip side I will also admit that today (June 6, “Separated at Birth” item) it actually made me upset. This all might sound petty but I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I did not comment on this.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Wahlberg since before “Four Brothers,” before “Fear,” even before the CK ads. He’s a very attractive man. Rep Connie Mack (R-Fla.) may look attractive to some people but he is no Mark Wahlberg. I doubt Mark reads The Hill, but I’m sure if he saw your page he would choke on the air he was breathing and in his oh-so-sweet Boston accent say,
“Yeah, right.”

~From Erica Fouche, Alexandria, Va.