Friday, February 13, 2015

It Takes a Neoliberal Village

Hillary Clinton sure has a strange way of rolling out her presidential campaign. She's teamed up with Bill Frist (health industry profiteer, corrupt former senator, and inept long-distance diagnostician of Terry Schiavo) to advocate for the renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program. (CHIP) This 90s initiative currently serves a couple million borderline-poor children -- out of the nearly 50 million people still uncovered under the Affordable Care Act.

It seems that CHIP will run out of funding this fall. So what more perfect way for Hillary Clinton to show that she cares than writing an op-ed in the New York Times? This is a huge dog whistle to her Wall Street backers, a reassuring signal that the crumb-throwing agenda would continue under a third Clinton term. And the empress-in-waiting will not be above teaming up with corrupt politicians like Frist to wheel and deal, either.

There is no wealth inequality or political corruption in Hillary World. There is only.... drum-roll, please.... that dreaded Congressional Gridlock. It turns out that all we need to save a few carefully chosen little people out of the millions and millions still suffering and struggling is for a couple of elite grandparental pols to get together to say they really, really care.... about the merest handful of very carefully chosen and vetted little people.

Even the title of the op-ed -- Save the Children's Insurance -- sounds like a marketing ploy by a charity scam. I half-expected to see a video of Sally Struthers embedded in the copy. As a matter of fact, if you want to avoid reading the op-ed, you can get the gist from this old TV spot. The messages are identical: all that sick and starving kids need is a little pocket change in order for rich people to feel better about themselves.

If you're still craving schmaltz, Clinton and Frist (or more likely, their P.R. people) give it to you in rancid dollops:
NO child in America should be denied the chance to see a doctor when he or she needs one — but if Congress doesn’t act soon, that’s exactly what might happen.
For the past 18 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided much-needed coverage to millions of American children. And yet, despite strong bipartisan support, we are concerned that gridlock in Washington and unrelated disputes over the Affordable Care Act could prevent an extension of the program. As parents, grandparents and former legislators, we believe that partisan politics should never stand between our kids and quality health care.
We may be from different political parties, but both of us have dedicated our careers to supporting the health of children and their families. This shared commitment inspired us to work together in the late 1990s to help create CHIP to address the needs of the two million children whose families make too much money to be covered by Medicaid, but cannot afford private insurance.
They then proceed to wax rhapsodic over the rights of individual states to use CHIP money as they fit. They wax very, very far right, as a matter of fact. Even Republican governors love CHIP! And why shouldn't they? It's nowhere near a universal health care program. It serves only a very narrow category of needy people.

Clinton and Frist go on to kvetch that because of a "glitch" in the Affordable Care Act, families that qualify for CHIP are in danger of losing all benefits for their kids. Actually, as with most of the ACA, this is not a glitch at all. It's a built-in feature, demanding that even the near-poor have some skin in the game, in the way of high co-pays and deductibles. The whole idea is to enrich insurance companies while discouraging people from seeking too much medical care, thus miraculously bringing health care spending down. In the infamous words of HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Obamacare is designed to "deliver impact to the American people."

Clinton and Frist (or their minions) conclude:
Reauthorizing CHIP for the next four years would cost about $10 billion — an investment in our children that will pay off (my bold) for decades to come. This is an opportunity to send a message that Washington is still capable of making common-sense progress for American families.
As 2015 unfolds, we know Congress will continue to debate the future of health care reform. We most likely won’t see eye to eye about some of the more contentious questions. But one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that our most vulnerable children shouldn’t be caught in the crossfire.
This isn’t about politics. It’s about our kids and our nation’s future. What could be more important than that?
I'll leave it up to readers to address that last hilarious question, because the answers are too endless to list, and Sally Struthers quit making commercials.

Meanwhile, here's my published comment to Hill and the other Bill:
While CHIP has done a lot of good, it hasn't been nearly enough in this era of increasing poverty, stagnating wages and extreme wealth disparity.
The health of US children ranks a shameful 26th among 29 advanced nations surveyed by UNICEF. The highest ranked -- Norway, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Sweden -- have strong social safety nets, including medical care, emphasis on superior public education, and liberal family leave policies.
The sad truth is that the oligarchs running the USA don't care much about our children. An estimated one in four live in poverty, and one out of 30 is homeless. Although half of all school-age children are indigent enough to qualify for free school lunches, Republicans are already talking about further reducing their food stamp stipends. Even relatively liberal initiatives are piecemeal, always couched in the language of the free market, such as "investing in our children" for our future prosperity. How about we just give the kids what they need, and stop referring to them as commodities? How about we stop calling ages 0-10  "the Homeland Generation" who've never known a day that this country hasn't been at war? How about we take some of the trillions wasted on war, and spend it on day care and a government jobs program for every American and every parent who wants and needs to work?
No PERSON in America should be denied the chance to see a doctor. Single Payer for all is not only humane, it makes good economic sense.


Denis Neville said...

Once again, Karen, you have nailed it!

Astronomical healthcare costs and lack of access continue to drive families past their breaking point while insurance companies continue to soak-up billions of healthcare dollars as millions of children's basic needs go unmet.

"You can no more make an agreement with them than you can nail currant jelly to the wall. And the failure is not due to the nail. It's due to the currant jelly." – Theodore Roosevelt

They blame it on the “kid glitch” in the Affordable Care Act.

“In a state that is already turning away federal money by not expanding Medicaid because legislators want to thumb their noses at the president and the Affordable Care Act instead of helping citizens get health insurance, losing CHIP money would be a severe blow. Child care advocates hope Congress will renew CHIP funding for at least another few years until the “kid glitch” in the federal health law can be fixed.”

The Center for Children and Families of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute report on Arizona children who lost CHIP coverage and lessons learned for the future:

Fourteen thousand children in Arizona lost their health insurance at the end of January 2014 when the state ended its KidsCare program for low-income children, becoming the only state in the country without an active Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Georgetown researchers found that former Arizona CHIP enrollees switching over to the exchange likely would have to buy coverage that was anywhere between two and eight times more expensive and with fewer benefits. The poorest families and those with more than one child would face the largest cost increases, even with subsidies, because of the exchange plans' high out-of-pocket costs, they found.

A study on the “Inequities in Health Care Needs for Children with Medical Complexity,” published in the December 2014 issue of Health Affairs on children’s health:

“Children with special health care needs are believed to be susceptible to inequities in health and health care access. Within the group with special needs, there is a smaller group of children with medical complexity: children who require medical services beyond what is typically required by children with special health care needs…We found that children with medical complexity were twice as likely to have at least one unmet need, compared to children without medical complexity. Among the children with medical complexity, unmet need was not associated with primary language, income level, or having Medicaid. We conclude that medical complexity itself can be a primary determinant of unmet needs.”

“Because of the inadequacies of the Affordable Care Act we need to return to the negotiating table to fix our health care system. But when we do, let’s not start from a position of compromise, thereby allowing private insurers to continue to inflict these abuses on us. Let’s begin with a bona fide single payer system – an improved version of Medicare that covers everyone.” - Don McCanne, Physicians for a National Health Program

Cirze said...

Feels like shouting into the void, doesn't it?

As Mrs. Clinton's campaign comes into focus we'll be lucky if we can find a centimeter of distance between her and Jebbie (or any of the other neolib/cons running as more Republican than she).

I can feel a universal gag reflex building into a tidal wave among lucid onlookers. Here in NC I don't run into anyone who has a good word to say about Hillary - and all my friends are Democrats!

Maybe this will serve as the national moment of clarity we've been anxiously awaiting that will usher in necessary legal/political change.

Although there are a heck of a lot of rich people who will be fighting hard to stop it.

Zee said...

Why is it not surprising that the loathsome Hillbillary should ally herself with the equally loathsome Dr.(?) Bill Frist in a totally pretentious effort to "Save the Chil'uns?"

Answer: It gives Hillbillary bogus "across-the-aisle" street-cred come 2016, and rescues Dr. (and I use the term very loosely) Frist from total--and well-deserved--obscurity.

As always in American politics, one dirty hand greases the other to the pathetic satisfaction of both, but to the total disgust of the electorate.

Or not.

One can fool ALL of the people SOME of the time, and SOME of the people ALL of the time. And that, alas, is usually ENOUGH.

I already dread 2016.