Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jill on S-CHIP Reauthorization

This is a historic day for the N.O. - It's Just Me blog. For the first time, I present a guest blogger! I received an email from a dear college friend of yore, Jill of the Bay Area (i.e., San Francisco for the non-caffeinated folks & those educated in the Gret Stet of Loo-ziana) regarding President Bush's vow to veto a bill passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress to provide health insurance for uninsured children. I couldn't have written it more eloquently myself, and she has kindly allowed me to share her sentiments (her words in this reddish brown'range hue).

Fratto said Bush might be amenable to increasing the funding level above his suggested $5 billion over five years if the expansion of eligibility was limited. Fratto said, "This should not be an issue where you decide what the funding is, and then (set) the policy," adding, "We should decide what the policy is and let the funding land where it lands." However, Fratto said that once a government program subsidizes children in families with annual incomes above 300% of the federal poverty level, "you are talking about people who are solidly within the middle class of America, and you are extending another unfunded entitlement to the middle class" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 9/28).

Okay, the reauthorization and expansion is good news. The vote tallies below put a veto override vote barely within reach in the Senate and slightly out of reach in the House, if my math is correct. Promising attainability; however, it is REALLY disheartening that there should be any scramble for veto override votes, or support of any kind for this measure!

What's really got my blood boiling is the highlighted text, though. The words "unfunded entitlement to the middle class" make me want to shake somebody! Even if the allegation that this compromise measure would provide some unintended support for "middle class" families by extending coverage to families earning 300% above the federal poverty level, SO WHAT?! First, consider that the 2007 federal poverty guideline for the "American Dream" family (2 parents, 2.5 kids) is right around $24,000. That's right a family of FIVE is not considered poor within the federal guidelines until there income rock bottoms to $24,130. (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/07poverty.shtml.) Three-hundred percent of $24,000 is $72,000 for a FIVE-PERSON HOUSEHOLD! That family needs some help!

Next, consider that one of the leading causes of bankruptcies in the United States is non-covered medical expenses. Finally, consider that the bankrutpcy code amendments that took effect in 2005 make it more difficult to fully discharge debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One of the considerations used to determine eligibility for Chapter 7 discharge is a "means" test, whereby if a family's income is above the median income level for their particular state (based on family size / # earners, I believe), then guess what? That family might not be able to fully discharge their debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy! Sure, sure, other provisions apply, and I'm no bankruptcy lawyer, but dangit, common sense says that that puts full discharge out of reach for a greater number of "middle class" families -- particularly if earnings of 300% over the federal poverty level puts you "solidly within the middle class."

"Unfunded entitlement to the middle class," indeed! The only spot-on word in that phrase is "entitlement." We are entitled to have kids that are healthy without worrying about whether we're going to have to sell our blood, organs, houses, etc. in order to pay for care that ensures their health.

Grrrrr.... I'll stop seething and get back to work so that I won't be staring down that poverty level income figure in my personal economy, but it's gonna be a while before I stop cursing in my head about this one!

You probably got my message a couple of days ago (blank subject line -- sorry -- typing fast): CONTACT YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD ON THIS!

Be well (evidently you can't afford not to),

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