While I tend to take for granted (as I'm sure many of us do), that there will always be a doctor who will simply take my little $10 co-pay, stick a thermometer in my ear, write me a prescription and send me on my way, not everyone has this luxury.
In a recent article in the NY Times, I learned that the plans to extend a health care plan to a large quantity of children the United States has been put on ice while the Bush Administration tries to decide if the purpose of their Children's Health Insurance Program should include children in families that make more than $20,650 (the Federal poverty level for a family of four). New York would like to raise this limit to $82,600 for a family of four, and California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey want to or have made similar changes.
But the Bush administration worries that this program is being used as a substitute for private health insurance.
Let's talk about private health insurance.
In fact, "If a state wants to set its income limit above 250 percent of the poverty level — $51,625 for a family of four — Mr. Smith said, “the state must establish a minimum of a one-year period of uninsurance for individuals” before they can receive public coverage." So, a family would be required to go an ENTIRE year without health insurance before being granted access to public coverage.
Why isn't the government providing public health coverage to everyone, in the first place?
I have a co-worker who is a single parent with three kids. Her ex-husband is always in and out of jobs and pays probably next to nothing in child support. She makes, oh, let's say $20 an hour. With taxes and other various deductions, she probably has a take home of around $2500 a month. She also owns a home. Our county pays approximately $600 a month for health coverage. If your plan goes above this allocation, the amount is deducted from your paycheck. A family plan with a medium-prized insurer costs around $1200 a month, which means that her take home is now $1900 a month. To live in California. To own a home. To buy gas. To feed and clothe three children.
Now, I'm not clear on what the Bush Administration means when they refer to "private health coverage," but when fully employed people are struggling because of the cost of health insurance, I think that a supplementary program like the Children's Health Insurance Program makes sense. I've never understood why the government doesn't pay for our health coverage. They pay for it people are on welfare, but when people are gainfully employed, they pay for it themselves.
And as long as we're talking about it, if we're sticking to private health insurance, and if we have to pay to have "family" plans, I think we should be allowed to define who qualifies as family. Domestic partnerships? Fine. But I should also be allowed to add my parents, should they ever come to live with me. If it's my money, not the government's, I should have more choices in how it's spent.
I don't believe that the National Health Service in the UK is without its faults. Nor do I believe that the state-sponsored medical coverage in France provides seamless service. But the fact is, these governments make the step to provide something to their citizens.
I look at my paycheck and see 40% taken away every two weeks. Sure, this goes to my retirement fund, but a large chunk of it goes to taxes. I may be naive, but I simply fail to understand how our government can neglect to provide health insurance to its citizens.