posted on: 4/19/2007
Each year I do what I can to promote the goals
of "Cover The Uninsured Week". This year the
project runs from April 23-29, 2007 with a number of events planned
nationwide1. Robert Wood Foundation sponsors the
event that has an
impressive list of past accomplishments and this program has
undoubtedly done a lot of good
for our country in the past.
This year I have less enthusiasm toward the project
because the campaign chose to focus on the issue of insuring kids. Not that
I have anything against helping kids, nor would anyone be
opposed to the concept that all of the children in this country
should have access to health care. My objection stems from the
fact that providing insurance for children is not representative of the challenges
of the overall uninsured problem in America and, secondly, that the
motivation to focus on insurance for children appears to be
politically timed. I object to the project's failure to recognize
that coverage for 100% of our population - whether for children or
adults - is not possible in a society that also embraces individual
freedom of choice.
A decade ago Congress created the State
Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover the
children of modest income families. The program has been very
successful but lately the state agencies that administer the program
are finding difficulty giving their free health insurance to the
remaining estimated 9 million uninsured children in this country.
Apparently no one knows for sure why some people do not enroll for
free health insurance even with massive promotions in our schools,
on television and even multi-lingual publications in targeted
minority markets. Additional efforts to advertise and promote the
insurance program are likely to have little effect in expanding its
Funding for the national SCHIP program expires this year
so the Robert Wood Foundation is spending millions of dollars
lobbying for continued Congressional support. My guess is that if
this money had been spent directly for health care for uninsured
children, the net results would be better.
Next year I hope that Cover The Uninsured Week
gets back to the core of the problem - educating working adults
about the availability of affordable health insurance programs2.
This is the goal that can produce real results. If is time to give
up on the un-American notion that we can push everyone to
voluntarily enroll in a health insurance program - even if the
insurance is free. We need to accept the fact that in a free
democratic society there will always be some small percentage of
people who will not have health insurance. Let's focus on those who
would voluntarily enroll rather than continue to throw money at
those who opt to not participate.
1For unrelated personal reasons, I am
not actively participating in any programs this year but will
continue to promote such events in various publications.
2These insurance programs exclude
coverage for the relatively small portion of the working population
(or people who are otherwise financially solvent) who have
chronic medical problems but do not qualify for Medicaid programs.
This serious issue is outside the scope of this article.
keywords: State Children's
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), uninsured
Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) consumer Web sites
Copyright 2010 by Tony Novak. Originally produced and published for the "AskTony" column syndication prior to 2007. Edited and independently republished by the author in March 2010. All rights reserved.