Saturday, November 03, 2007

Framing the SCHIP debate

President Bush and congressional Republicans shouldn't worry about political fallout from blocking the Democratic legislation to expand the children's health insurance program known as S-chip. They have a good argument against it that most Americans will buy and a credible alternative. So there's no reason to be anxious.

Supporters of S-chip expansion point to polls that show widespread public backing, including among Republicans. But once a single piece of information is added to a poll question on S-chip, the public's attitude changes. That information: the bill would allow kids in families making up to $61,800 a year to get free, taxpayer-paid health insurance.

Gallup asked this question of adults two weeks ago: "Based on what you have heard or read about this bill, who do you have more confidence in to handle this issue - George W. Bush or the Democrats in Congress?" Bush got 32 percent, Democrats 54 percent. Bush, of course, opposed and then vetoed the Democratic S-chip bill.

That question went to half the polling sample. The other half got this question: "As you may know, the Democrats want to allow a family of four earning about $62,000 to qualify for the program. President Bush wants most of the increases to go to families earning less than $41,000. Whose side do you favor?"

The response was almost the reverse. Bush got 52 percent, Democrats 40 percent. And the response likely would have been more pronounced in opposition to S-chip expansion if Bush, a relatively unpopular and highly polarizing figure, had been left out of the question.

For Republicans, this means they have a winning strategy. Limiting S-chip to its original purpose of providing health insurance to poor children (in families at less than $41,200 income) meets with the public's approval. Expanding S-chip into the middle class doesn't. The key is citing the $61,800 figure.

But that's not enough to win the political fight. Democrats can respond by saying, "There are millions of kids in that $41,200 to $61,800 income bracket without health insurance. What are you going to do about them? Where's the Republican alternative?"

In fact, Republicans have such an alternative. In the Senate, Mel Martinez of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio have introduced a bill that would offer a $1,400 per child tax credit for health insurance to families in that bracket. The credit would be refundable. Tom Price of Georgia and dozens of other Republicans are sponsoring a House version of the bill.....

Democrats and much of the media have been framing this as an issue of Republicans opposing health care for children rather than engaging in an honest debate on who should be eligible for the program. The ads featuring kids who are already eligible are especially dishonest as are the attacks on conservatives who challenge the ads. What Republicans need to do is run their own ads featuring the facts in the poll and put the Democrats on the defensive where they belong.


Australia: NSW hospital woes spreading

The state's crumbling public health system is sliding further into crisis, with ambulance crews revealing patients on the Central Coast have died waiting for treatment. As embattled Health Minister Reba Meagher today meets with staff at the beleaguered Royal North Shore Hospital, The Daily Telegraph reports the crisis in our state's health system is engulfing more hospitals.

Paramedics are the latest health workers to speak out, revealing their forced queuing at public hospitals because of a lack of patient beds is costing people their lives. Their warning comes as paramedics on the Central Coast are losing up to 1000 hours a month on the road waiting outside clogged-up hospitals. Documents obtained by the NSW Opposition reveal the seven Central Coast ambulance stations have this year lost the equivalent of 170 days queuing outside Gosford and Wyong Hospitals' emergency departments because there are no beds. Leaked figures from log books show 138 "cases" had to wait more than two hours at both hospitals.

One source said up to 80 per cent of the area's 18 ambulance day crews were regularly off the road and unable to answer triple-0 calls because they were trapped at hospital emergency departments. An ambulance officer with more almost 30 years' experience told The Daily Telegraph jobs were going unanswered. "We sometimes have to get crews from Hornsby or St Ives to answer calls on the Coast because 80 per cent of us will be queuing at the hospital," he said.

Patricia Marshall knows the tragic consequences of our over-stretched public health system - her sister Lynette Salmon died after being forced to wait 20 minutes for an ambulance - despite living just two minutes from an ambulance station. Ms Salmon, 37, suffered an epileptic fit at her Blackwall home last year, dying on her way to hospital. Ms Marshall believes her sister would be alive today if an ambulance had arrived earlier. "What a waste of a life," Ms Marshall said.

Head of emergency services for the Central Coast Dr Kate Porges yesterday backed the paramedics' claims. "We see them (ambulances) queuing outside but there is nothing we can do," he said.

Opposition health spokesman Jillian Skinner said ambulance crews were contacting her daily about the problems. "Our hospitals, not just Royal North Shore, are struggling to cope with patients coming through emergency," she said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am against socialized medicine. Its a bad idea