MediKid: Whose Idea was This, Anyway?

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Congress is about to cast one of its most damaging votes ever against children’s health. Taking a page from the Clinton administration’s playbook, Congress will soon vote to expand government-run health care for children Conferees from the House and Senate meet this week to reach a compromise between each chamber’s budget reconciliation package. As part of the budget agreement with President Clinton, each package earmarks at least $16 billion for children’s health coverage. Armed with faulty data on the number of uninsured children, Congress is set to spend that $16 billion on new “MediKid” bureaucracies that will waste billions of dollars and pull hundreds of thousands of children out of private insurance.

Congress has debated the issue of uninsured children under the premise that 10 million American children are unable to obtain health coverage — a premise that is utterly false. In fact, fewer than two million children in the U.S. are chronically uninsured.

Acting on this false premise, Congress has designed new government programs to give health coverage to low-income children. Over five years, these programs will waste more than $8 billion duplicating services already provided by the private sector. Worse, MediKid will actually harm children’s health by making parents less able to meet their children’s basic health needs.

In 1993, the Clinton administration’s Health Care Interdepartmental Working Group conceived of a strategy to nationalize health insurance by providing government coverage to children first and later phasing in the adult population. Ironically, a Republican Congress’ MediKid proposals are now implementing that strategy.

Rather than create a wasteful new MediKid program that undermines private insurance and forsakes children’s basic health needs, Congress should return the $16 billion allotted for children’s health care to parents. Parents know more than politicians about their children’s health needs and can spend that $16 billion to more greatly benefit children than can Washington.

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