Ever wonder how supporters
of socialized medicine got most seniors to give up their private
health insurance and join Medicare in 1965? They did it by adopting
an "incremental" strategy the same strategy that is being used to
establish government health care for children. First, they argued
that seniors were paying too much out-of-pocket for their health
Next, they promised that
Medicare would save the country money by guaranteeing health care
for all seniors at a cost of only one percent of workers' payroll.
However, after Medicare was passed, the federal government garnered
enough muscle power to force private insurers to drop seniors. The
same thing could happen to children if KidCare passes. That is why
the media should cover these four important issues related to
Paving the road to
socialized medicine. Documents from the Clinton health care task
force show that "KiddieCare" was to be the backup plan in case the
larger Clinton plan failed. "The [Clinton Health Care] Task Force
envisioned that the national version [of health care] would be
implemented by January 1, 1995, with phase-in by population,
starting with children, and universal coverage achieved by January
1, 2000," reports the Association of American Physicians and
Ironically, the Clinton
administration failed to implement its large-scale version of
socialized medicine while the Democrats led Congress, but with the
Republicans in charge, Congress is going to pass a scaled-down
version of ClintonCare.
A brilliant political
strategy. How is it that moderate Republicans would support KidCare
legislation? They know that Americans don't want socialized
medicine, or any new entitlement program for that matter. It seems
they are merely caving into the Democrats' political strategy, which
goes something like this: "Let's propose to fund children's health
care with cigarette taxes. Then, if Republicans oppose KidCare,
we'll charge that they don't care about children, and the only
reason Republicans oppose KidCare is that the party gets money from
the tobacco industry." This is brilliant political strategy. Yet,
the consequences will affect all taxpayers. Reporters should go
beyond the strategy and report the likely outcome.
program. Supporters of KidCare stress that funding children's health
care with cigarette taxes does not constitute a new entitlement
program. But that claim is misleading. Any promise to pay for
children's health care with cigarette taxes is certain to become an
entitlement program. Here is why: A recent study by the National
Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) reports that the number of smokers
is sure to drop it has for the last 30 years.
In fact, the share of
Americans age 18 and over who smoke has dropped from 42.3 percent in
1965 to 25 percent in 1993. Clearly, that's good news for Americans'
health, but it also means that any proposal to pay for children's
health care with cigarette taxes would be making a false promise to
children. The government cannot guarantee an adequate supply of
smokers over the years to pay for a children's health care program.
In the end, all taxpayers, not just smokers, would foot the bill.
Reporters shouldn't keep this from their readers and viewers.
Tobacco taxes are unfair.
Tobacco-funded KidCare policies discriminate against low-income and
minority populations. The NCPA study highlights these three facts
Today, smokers are more
likely to be blue-collar workers, have less than a high-school
education, and be black, American Indian, or Alaska Native.
Families making less than
$30,000 per year pay more than half of all taxes paid on cigarettes.
Through combined federal
and state taxes on cigarettes, smokers already pay enough taxes to
cover the net costs they impose on society.
For those reasons,
cigarette taxes are one of the most regressive taxes even more
regressive than taxes on beer, wine, or gasoline. Thus, is it fair
to make minority populations pay higher taxes, when they are already
paying for their smoking- related costs to society?
understand the difficulty in rolling back entitlement programs once
they've been created. Democrats and Republicans alike find it very
difficult to reduce the rate of growth of Medicare. And neither
party has developed a long-term strategy for financing the $200
billion-a-year Medicare program for seniors.
So why in the world, at
this point in history, would politicians want to create an
entitlement program for America's children? Politics, not sound
economic policy, is the only answer. Journalists should include in
their stories about KidCare those who object to this plan and fear
it could take us down the road to socialized medicine.
Sue A. Blevins is
president of the Washington-based Institute for Health Freedom.