Saturday, January 17, 2009

SCHIP & The States: Another Bailout Boondoggle

It’s a typical Washington elixir. When bad press for multi-billion dollar bailouts has got you down, there’s nothing quite like a government program “for the children” to put things right again – particularly when the new President needs a quick victory to get his “Era of Bigger Government” of to a successful start. Such is the drama surrounding the “reauthorization” of SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which passed in 1997 ostensibly in lieu of socialized national health care and will be “re-upped” after President-elect Barack Obama takes office this month. The House just reauthorized the legislation yesterday by a vote of 289 to 139. Now, it heads to the Senate.

Never mind that the program is unsustainable. And bankrupting the states. And not insuring who it claims to be insuring – all those are things that can be worked out later, right? After all, we’re only $10 trillion dollars in the hole, with another $10 trillion pledged over the last four months alone to help us avoid an “economic Pearl Harbor.” If money grows on trees, as our leaders evidently believe that it does, why not blow billions more of it on a program that’s not only failing its mission, but doing something government shouldn’t even be doing in the first place.

Since its inception, SCHIP has been a case study in everything that’s wrong with government – another example of feel-good rhetoric and lofty promises paid for with your money, except the rhetoric never matches the reality and the promises are always too good to be true. Although its proponents are quick to throw up pictures of starving inner city children, the fact is that SCHIP has insured millions of adults, and middle class families over the past decade. In some cases, SCHIP recipients were earning 300% of the poverty level.

This was famously exposed in 2007, when Democrats selected a middle school student named Graeme Frost to deliver the rebuttal to President George W. Bush’s veto of SCHIP reauthorization, only to discover later that the boy attended a $20,000 a year school and his family lived in a 3,000 square foot home valued at over $400,000.

And who pays the most for SCHIP? A disproportionately high number of poor smokers – the very people the program is supposed to be serving. And on top of that, a recent Heritage Foundation report recently showed that 22 million people will have to take up smoking in America over the next decade or else the program will go bankrupt. How many of those people will be classified as low-income?

Then there’s the biggest fraud of them all – the fact that SCHIP is cannibalizing the private sector to the tune of 6 out of 10 beneficiary recipients. That’s right, evidence shows that only 40% of SCHIP recipients are actually uninsured – a pretty amazing number when you stop and think about it. Frankly, this defeats the whole purpose of the program, unless of course we want to start subsidizing this expense for people who can already afford it.

Not surprisingly, the 60% figure is higher than the government will admit, but not by much. Even the Congressional Budget Office acknowledges 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.”

Why is this relevant now? Well, government simply can’t afford to continue unsustainably spending money on non-core functions, like providing health insurance to people who already have it. Nor can it afford to bail out the states on SCHIP to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, which is what numerous governors are currently asking for. Government must return to its core functions and get out of the business of subsidizing everything that comes along with a “for the children” sign on it.


Any excuse to refuse medical care to those who have paid for it

British woman with deadly virus denied free NHS care... because she moved to Turkey to retire

A grandmother who moved to Turkey when she retired was billed for NHS treatment - despite making National Insurance contributions throughout her life. Joyce McDonald, 66, almost died when she was struck down with heart and liver damage and spent her entire life savings on an emergency medical flight to Britain. She was rushed to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where she spent two weeks undergoing treatment for a deadly virus attacking her organs.

But after she returned to Turkey, Mrs McDonald was stunned to receive a bill for 367 pounds from Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust for her initial consultation. She was also slapped with another 800 bill for the three mile ambulance ride from the airport in Cambridge to the hospital.

Mrs McDonald, who moved to Turkey with her husband in 2004, was told she was not entitled to free state health care because she is no longer a British citizen. But her husband Ronald McDonald, 71, has blasted the NHS for its 'disgraceful' stance after the couple made more than 50 years' National Insurance contributions. He now fears they could be left financially crippled if they are forced to pay an estimated 10,000 for future treatments themselves. He said: 'It was touch and go as to whether I might lose my wife on the flight home. She was very weak. 'Then when I got to the airport in Cambridge we were taken by ambulance from the airport to the hospital - I have since been given a bill for 800 for a five minute ambulance ride.

Mrs McDonald was struck down with a deadly virus and will need more treatment in the UK 'I'm still waiting for the bill for the two week hospital stay. It's utterly disgraceful. 'My wife and I are still British citizens and have paid taxes for the best part of 50 years before we moved to Turkey. 'We only moved because our pensions didn't cover the cost of living.' The couple left their home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, for Turkey, five years ago to enjoy their retirements in the sun.

But Mrs McDonald was struck down with a severe virus in November and the pair were forced to spend 26,000 on medical evacuation flights to the UK. She was discharged two weeks later and returned to Turkey, but was told she needed to return to the UK next month for further tests. The couple are both still British passport holders but have been told they will have to pay for all future treatments because they had been out of Britain for more than three months.

Mr McDonald, who still pays tax in Britain on a small private pension, is prepared to go to court over the issue. He said: 'I refuse to be blackmailed by the NHS. 'I don't mind having to pay for the emergency air ambulance and treatment in Turkey but it's ridiculous to have to pay for treatment in my own country. 'What have I been paying for all these years? 'I have already been given a bill of nearly 400 for the initial consultation when we arrived at the hospital and my wife still has four tests in February for her heart and her liver. 'Obviously I've spent my life savings to save my wife and now I'm totally wiped out. 'It's probably going to cost us at least 10,000.'

Mr McDonald also claims Cambridge NHS trust had threatened to contact the Foreign Office and stop him having his British visa renewed. He said: 'I don't even need a British visa - I'm a British passport holder 'We are being treated worse than immigrants who come across to Britain and get free health care and don't pay taxes.' 'Thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal from both the EU, and the rest of the world, are entitled to free housing and medical treatment, but as British citizens, my wife and I are excluded from similar treatment.'

A spokesman from the Department of Health said the regulations on payment for services had been in place since 1989. He said: 'The NHS is first and foremost for the benefit of people who live in this country. 'People who are not ordinarily resident here are not automatically entitled to access free NHS hospital treatment. 'UK state pension holders living overseas are exempt from charges if they need treatment during their visit to the UK. This does not include pre-planned treatment.'

John Leslie, Director of Finance at NHS Cambridgeshire said: 'While NHS Cambridgeshire cannot comment on individual cases,the Department of Health gives very clear guidance on the provision of NHS services to people in Cambridgeshire. 'Anyone who is normally a resident of the UK is entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.' 'However, anyone who has been living outside of the UK for more than 3 months would not be automatically eligible for free hospital treatment.'


Amazing emergency room incompetence in Australian public hospital

A pensioner [senior citizen] who claims a doctor at Wynnum Hospital was unable to administer an insulin shot has become embroiled in a dispute over the emergency department's level of care. Richard Supranowicz, an insulin-dependent diabetic, said the doctor told him he would need technical advice from either the Redlands or Princess Alexandra hospitals on how to administer the insulin needle. "He also explained his experience was very limited, and his main duties were to supervise admitted patients," Mr Supranowicz said. Mr Supranowicz, directed to Wynnum after phoning a Queensland Health hotline, said he had to be transferred to Princess Alexandra Hospital to be treated for high sugar levels.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Stephen Robertson said he had ordered a full investigation into the issues raised by Mr Supranowicz. Mr Robertson said: "Doctors at Wynnum Hospital are qualified and registered medical practitioners who can handle emergencies and provide resuscitation and stabilisation of emergencies until transfer or retrieval to a higher level service. "A doctor is rostered on and is on site at all times."

Mr Supranowicz, however, described the situation as "absolutely disgraceful". Wynnum specialist physician Dr Brian Senewiratne said Wynnum Hospital was a ``write-off''. ``It has been a write-off for a long time because it doesn't have the beds, the trained staff or the facilities, so everyone is referred to the PA which doesn't have the beds either,'' he said. ``There is the obstinate refusal of the administration to admit there is a problem.''

Queensland Health's website lists the facility's hospital services as being ``acute medical'' and ``emergency services''.

Dr Senewiratne said Wynnum deserved better because patients especially those who were elderly needed practical and emotional support from nearby family and friends.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said: ``I think it is a reasonable expectation that a hospital that is described as offering acute medical and emergency services on the Queensland Health website should actually do this.''


No comments: