Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.
Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.
Here's why this is bad news for Barack Obama and other Church of Universal Coverage faithful -- or for the rest of us if they succeed.
- Universal coverage means paying too much. Hawaii officials realized they were paying too much when families that could obtain health coverage on their own were lining up for subsidies. The taxpayers' money was not making much of a dent in the uninsured because it was covering lots of kids who would have had coverage anyway. The Church of Universal Coverage will protest: "The problem was not that taxpayers were paying too much -- only half of this program's budget came from taxpayers." But that's just it: even half the cost of the program was too much. The other half came from Hawaii's Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, which has agreed to keep covering enrolled children through the rest of the year without taxpayer subsidies -- even more evidence that taxpayers had been paying too much.
- Universal coverage also means getting too little. Hawaii's "now you see it, now you don't" approach is shortchanging thousands of children by disrupting their coverage and care. Again, the Church of Universal Coverage will protest: "But that's just because Hawaii has an awful Republican governor." But that's exactly the point. As I tried to explain to pre-Nobel laureate Paul Krugman: there will always be awful Republican governors. Putting the government in charge means that the medical care you need to keep yourself or your loved ones alive can disappear with a shift in the political winds. The resulting harm is not just the work of black-hearted Republicans. It's a risk inherent to all universal coverage schemes.
Barack Obama's health plan promises much of the same. He would force people to pay more for health coverage, even if they found little value in the added expense. He would waste taxpayer dollars on people who can already afford coverage on their own. He would draw millions into government health programs that would threaten their access to care.
And if in 10 years some nasty Republicans yank your family's health care, we would have Barack Obama to thank.