Moving Toward Universal Government Health Care
This year I enjoyed relating to House District 31 constituents some very good news regarding progress in reforming state government. Some of that progress included the following: accelerating the rate of income tax reduction, strengthening state immigration enforcement laws, cutting most taxpayer subsidies for abortion, passing education reform to encourage new charter schools, appropriating less in the state budget this year as opposed to last year, requiring that documentation of state spending be placed online, calling on state retirement systems to divest of investments with governments of terrorist-sponsoring nations and watching as the Oklahoma Department of Transportation developed a long term plan for paving roads that appears to be free of political influence.
Under the conservative leadership in the House of Representatives, progress continues to be made through a series of interim studies designed to consolidate government agencies and to develop a possible merit pay system for Oklahoma Teachers.
However, I have also reported negative news about passage of the pork-filled Department of Tourism budget which contains line items that appropriate money to non-governmental entities where expenditures are difficult to trace. Another unfortunate occurrence this year was the passage and Gubernatorial approval of Senate Bill 424. The bill, known as the "All Kids" program, greatly expands the size of government and increases Medicaid entitlement eligibility to cover dependants in families with up to $62,000 annual income for a family of four. As many as 42,000 additional people could be added to medicaid roles at a cost to taxpayers of approximately 38 million dollars in state and federal money.
This massive government spending is made possible by a federal program known as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Created in 1997, the program has been used by several states to promote universal health coverage. Recently, the program has been debated at the federal level as the Bush administration opposes a large expenditure, preferring to limit SCHIP spending to only poor children. However, both Republican and Democrat Governors are pushing for a significant investment of SCHIP funds that could be spent on both children and adults.
Undoubtedly, this type of government expansion reflects a big step toward the goal of universal government health care. A study conducted by Jonathan Gruber of the MIT Economics Department, confirmed that six of every 10 people covered by SCHIP expansions, already have private coverage. In other words, big government spending is eliminating the insurance sector from being able to provide coverage in the free market.
Despite the opposition of House leadership, SB 424 passed the House of Representatives by a margin of 75-21. I believe this reflects a dangerous lack of understanding by legislators in both parties of the grave danger of government interfering with free market forces and of the continued move toward universal government health care.
During my term of office, I have worked to understand the efforts being made to expand the size of government. In the future I will continue to be vigilant in opposing massive government expansion. As always, I appreciate your feedback at 557-7350 or www.housedistrict31.com.