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October 12, 2007

Unhealthy Criticism

Opinion writer Noam Neusner rightly exhorts policymakers to use facts, not anecdotes, to evaluate competing proposals for reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (“Anecdotes Won’t Keep America’s Kids Healthy,” October 5). In that spirit, here are some key facts.

Since S-CHIP’s bipartisan enactment in 1997, the percentage of children without health coverage has fallen by one-third, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Congressional S-CHIP proposal that President Bush vetoed is sponsored by a broad range of legislators in both parties — not by Democrats alone, as characterized by Neusner.

Bush’s proposal to increase S-CHIP funding by $1 billion a year would not cover “all children living in households with incomes twice the poverty level,” as Neusner claims. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that funding level would quickly be overtaken by health care inflation, causing a loss of health coverage for nearly 1 million children who receive S-CHIP under current law.

Under the president’s proposal, states would certainly not get the extra resources needed to cover the additional 5.5 million uninsured children who, according to administration researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, qualify for health coverage under current law but are not enrolled.

Neusner also errs in asserting that the bipartisan congressional proposal would “cover all children in households three times the poverty level.” In fact, CBO found that 74% of all children newly receiving coverage already qualify under current law, which typically reaches only twice the poverty level. As a result, seven out of 10 children projected to receive new coverage are poor or near-poor, according to Urban Institute research.

Neusner suggests that “childless adults” may “get coverage” under S-CHIP. In fact, the congressional proposal would terminate all S-CHIP coverage for childless adults.

Finally, Neusner’s claims that the congressional proposal would “have huge impacts on private health insurance markets, incentives for businesses to accelerate the trend of dropping private health coverage, future budget deficits, and so on” are greatly exaggerated. The bill requires states to do more than current law mandates in preventing S-CHIP from crowding out private coverage. It also lets states use S-CHIP to provide many more children with employer-based insurance.

Accordingly, fewer than one in 20 American children with private coverage would move to Medicaid or S-CHIP, based on CBO projections and health insurance estimates from the Census Bureau. And even deficit hawks may support the proposed spending of an extra $7 billion a year to cover nearly 4 million uninsured children, particularly since according to the CBO the proposal’s increased tobacco tax fully funds all new federal spending throughout the legislation’s five-year lifespan.

Stan Dorn
Senior Research Associate
Health Policy Center
Urban Institute
Washington, D.C.

Revisit Russian Aliyah

Few progressive Jews and Zionists have matched Leonard Fein’s willingness to speak the unpalatable truth. But when he suggests that a story will one day be told about why Israel lowered the bar to enable Russian immigration, even he shies away from the equally ugly truth Israeli and American Jewish leaders refuse to acknowledge (“Where Senility Is No Barrier to High Office”).

Can one of us, in the revolving door called Jewish leadership, say we never heard an Israeli spokesperson tell us, in as many words, that Israel needs Russian Jews in order to prevent the country from becoming “Oriental”? Even today there are more Russian-born Jews holding tenure at Israeli universities than those, native born or not, of North African or Middle Eastern Jewish descent. And the Jewish left has for decades been apologists for such spoken and unspoken bias.

As for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, are there no Ashkenazi fanatics who have spoken in equally disgusting and un-Jewish ways, not least those Eastern European haredim who insist that the Holocaust was God’s punishment for not keeping Shabbat?

Still, as always, Fein is on target more than most, particularly about the latest idiotic rebranding ads promoting Israeli tourism, not least one he likely hadn’t seen when he wrote his column: a full page in the New York Times Magazine this week, featuring an Israeli “cowboy” on his spread in the Golan Heights.

Aren’t we holding the Golan pending an eventual peace deal with Syria? What kind of tourists — and what new enemies — will such idiocy bring?

I. M. A. Lederer
Des Moines, Iowa

Rest Easy, Mr. Irving

In describing his new position that the Nazis may indeed have killed some Jews, David Irving cautions, “You must not think that I’ve done anything to rehabilitate myself” (“Holocaust Deniers Rankled by Their Standard Bearer’s Revisions,” October 5).

The dictionary describes rehabilitate as “to reestablish the good reputation of a person or one’s character.”

So rest easy, Mr. Irving: We didn’t think you’d done anything to rehabilitate yourself.

Elizabeth Schwartz
San Diego, Calif.

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