By Robert A. Vella
As many of our readers are already aware, this blog often contrasts the differences between political ideology and political pragmatism. Neither extreme is generally desirable, in my view, and each public policy issue should be assessed individually with respect to what is the optimal course of action versus what is practically achievable. The following is an example of extreme political ideology.
Yesterday, Republicans took action to make Arizona the first in the nation to cease participation in the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which provides medical services to over 30,000 low income children in that state. Their reasoning might astound you. Was participation in the program ended because it was either too costly for Arizonans or lawmakers wanted to use those funds for other purposes? No, Arizona is one of 10 states the U.S. Congress designated last year to be fully reimbursed in the CHIP program by federal funding. Was the program not working properly or was being abused in some way? No, CHIP has been working as intended since its inception in 1997. So, what’s the problem then?
From The New York Times – Arizona Doesn’t Restore Federal Child Health Care Program:
When budget negotiations began last week, Republicans in both chambers shut out Democrats from the meetings, effectively excluding them from final decisions over school funding, the makeup of the State Supreme Court and the children’s health care program.
Tensions flared and a tenuous bipartisan coalition that had won the program’s approval in the House of Representatives disintegrated. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, stood on the sideline. The reason for the opposition here lies somewhere in Arizona’s messy and deeply divided politics. Whether it is immigration, abortion or the right to bear arms, conservative lawmakers often take hard-line stances against federal social programs.
Seriously? Republicans killed the program for no other reason than their hostility towards the federal government? Now, that’s an example of extreme political ideology gone wild! Still, there’s more to the story.
From Wikipedia – State Children’s Health Insurance Program:
Detractors of the program focus on the impact to the private health insurance industry. In a 2007 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, researchers determined that “for every 100 children who gain coverage as a result of SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.” The CBO speculates this is because the state programs offer better benefits at lower cost to enrollees than the private alternatives. A briefing paper by libertarian think-tank Cato Institute estimated the “crowding out” of private insurers by the public program could be as much as 60%.
Aha! The private insurance industry doesn’t like CHIP because it loosens their stranglehold on the healthcare market; and, the conservative anti-government ideology of Republicans just so happens to align with their interests. The health of Arizona’s poor children be damned.