By now, everyone has probably read the New York Times story about the Bush administration's move to "make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families." But as someone who has done extensive work in state politics and who serves on the board of the Progressive States Network (which is aggressively fighting to expand health care in America's states), I have to say that two nuggets really stick out to me.
The first is this passage:
"If a state wants to set its income limit above 250 percent of the poverty level ($51,625 for a family of four), Mr. Smith said, 'the state must establish a minimum of a one-year period of uninsurance for individuals' before they can receive public coverage."
So basically, the pro-devolution and pro-"states rights" Republican Party is now on record saying that if a state legislature wants to extend coverage to a family of four making over $51,625, the legislature must insist that the family go without health insurance for a year. Wonderful.
The other nugget is this:
"In his letter, Mr. Smith said the new standards would apply to states that previously received federal approval to cover children with family incomes exceeding 250 percent of the poverty level. Such states should amend their state plans to meet federal expectations within 12 months, or the Bush administration 'may pursue corrective action,' Mr. Smith said.
This is threatening, deliberately intimidating Big Brother-style language. The federal government "may pursue corrective action?" Against who? In states that expand their CHIP programs, are federal agents going to swarm in and revoke publicly subsidized health insurance from working-class families and force those families to retroactively pay back the aid they received? Is that "corrective action?" If not, what is? I'm not even joking around here - these are very legitimate questions that we have to ask.
Lyndon Johnson engaged in a "War On Poverty" - a war to try to end poverty. George W. Bush is embarking on a "War For Poverty" - and this move represents the final attempt to solidify his legacy as the most ardent reverse-Robin-Hood class warrior ever to hold the White House.
Cross-posted from Working Assets