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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

S-CHIP and Socialism

As Congress continues to debate a sure-to-be-vetoed reauthorization and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), you have to admire, in a sick sort of way, the audacity of the rhetoric emerging from the White House and its conservative allies on this issue. It was best expressed in this morning’s Robert Novak column, entitled “Socialized Medicine’s Front Door.”
In this column, the Prince of Darkness chops and channels a variety of Republican speeches warning that the S-CHIP expansion represents a “government takeover of health care” (the hardy perennial sound-bite at the center of the successful effort to derail the Clinton health care plan back in 1994), and of course, “socialized medicine” (a term used less successfully a generation earlier by conservative opponents of the original Medicare legislation).
You’d think terms like “socialized medicine” might be reserved for systems in which most health care providers work for the public sector. And “government takeover,” as applied to health insurance, not the health care system itself, is a phrase that might reasonably be applied to a single-payer system that abolishes or radically limits private insurance plans
But in reality, S-CHIP, in the expanded as well as in the existing version, typically purchases private health plans for those it covers. And far from being some Washington leviathan, S-CHIP is run by the states, who make a wide variety of decisions about coverage, and also help finance the program.
When you really think about what Novak and other conservatives actually mean when they talk about “socialized medicine” or a “government takeover of health care,” the terms could and would be applied to any public-sector-financed effort to expand health care coverage, including the one Mitt Romney signed into legislation in Massachusetts. That’s why we should all get used to the anti-socialism campaign unfolding in Washington this week, because we’re going to hear it over and over again on the 2008 presidential campaign trail. And it deserves derision and contempt every time it pops up.

3 comments on “S-CHIP and Socialism

  1. hkingsley on

    What’s funny is that if you read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (often touted as the bible for free market capitalism in the modern world), you’ll see that Hayek himself wrote that there’s no reason to think “social insurance” to cover basic need gaps is incompatible with private markets. So long as the larger system is not state owned, operated and controlled, public sector efforts present nothing close to the threat Republicans are screaming about.
    It’s just a scare tactic — red baiting, if you will.


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