Monday, February 27, 2006


A kinder, gentler post: CHIP

Looking over my recent posts, I noticed how much I have foamed at the mouth over GOP malfeasance. Of course it’s not my fault that the Republicans are involved in so many scandals, ideological hypocrisies, and make just plain dumb mistakes, but it is my fault that I don’t acknowledge good things, the things I think are working well. Every critic has a ideology. Here's a small part of mine: Today I want to praise Montana’s Child Health Insurance Plan, or CHIP. It’s a federal and state funded program that supplies uninsured Montana children with affordable health insurance. It’s dynamite. Parents can choose their own provider, and the payments are very reasonable. Thanks to Governor Schweitzer and the Democrat-led state legislature, the program is now fully funded in Montana, and one of Schweitzer’s goals for 2006 is to increase enrollment. I’m a parent of two-year-old twins. I was a student at the University of Montana when they were born, and my entire family was covered by my student health insurance. (My wife is a full-time writer and as such has no access to health insurance.) Just around the time my children were born, the University proposed dropping dependents from the coverage. That is, the U. wanted to dump all families from coverage. Why? The “student” health care representative (more like the “insurance company” rep, and she will go nameless), told me dependents were responsible for an overwhelming percentage of payments, and that if they were cut, the rest of the student body would receive an insurance premiums freeze or even cuts. Got that? The U. wanted to cover only the healthy at the cost of non-traditional students like myself. I would have had to drop out of school if the proposed change had not been killed by the Board of Regents. Someone forgot to explain the philosophy of insurance to the insurance representative: that a body of people pools together a fund to pay for the costs of caring for the sick. Those that are healthy shoulder a disproportionate amount of cost; but they do so knowing that when they get sick, they will receive funds to cover their own medical costs. Something's gone wrong with the system. Insurance costs are spinning out of control. An easy place to start with the blame is on the insurance companies themselves, who, with a stronger desire for profit than for insuring, purposefully price premiums out of the reach of fixed- and low-income families, who tend to incur higher medical costs than middle age upper-income brackets. There are other factors, too, but what's indisputable is that insurance costs are too high. High insurance costs are a great burden on parents. Not all parents have traditional 9-to-5 jobs, not all of us desire high financial rewards. Many of us are content with lower wages in exchange for pursuing a careers that pay less in money and more in job satisfaction. Small business owners, members of non-profit organizations, writers, river guides, all of these professions pay little and provide less health care. And with the costs of health care rising disproportionately to salaries, soon health care payments will rival mortgage payments, and working- and middle-class families will be forced to do without, too. Health care shouldn’t be optional, especially for children. Why can’t we work hard and not be able to enjoy health care? We need more programs like CHIP, that allow Montana families to pay for affordable and quality health care.
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