CHIP: Is Program Aimed at Nonexistent Children?
Writing in this week's Weekly Standard, Robert Goldberg of the Program on Medical Science and Society at the Ethics and Public Policy Center argues that enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program "has been underwhelming" because the program's target population "simply [does] not exist." He notes that when the program was proposed, the Children's Defense Fund claimed it was necessary because 10 million children lacked insurance. The White House, through a $40 billion expenditure, "vowed to sign up 5 million of them by 2000." So far, however, fewer than 500,000 have enrolled, despite the use of "private organizations like foundations, children's advocacy groups, health care providers and businesses" and even door-to-door campaigns.
Cooking the Numbers?
Goldberg argues that less than 4% of children under 18 -- 1.2 million -- lack coverage for an entire year. Data from the National Health Interview Survey, moreover, indicate that even among families who earn less than $10,000 annually, only 2% "cite lack of money or insurance as a reason for not getting care." Goldberg notes that these discrepancies in the administration's numbers are consistent with other instances of Clinton administration number-cooking. Further, he suggests that some eligible families may opt out of the Kiddiecare program because "most kids are healthy to begin with and ... their parents often prefer to obtain what care they need outside entitlement programs -- at public health clinics, for example, or from providers paid for out of pocket." He concludes, "Instead of trying to drag parents into Medicaid and Kidcare, why not simply give them the money to make their own choices" through tax credits? "The answer has nothing to do with children's health and everything to do with the fact that Al Gore and the Children's Defense Fund need Kidcare more than kids do. There never was a real children's health crisis, just a political benefit from talking about one" (4/5-12 issue).