March 19, 1997
By Linda Gorman
Remember ColoradoCare Backed by Governor Romer, various lawmakers, the usual citizens groups, and underwritten by more than half a million dollars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it would have required government health care for all. It was single-payer health care, the delivery system that consistently produces the worst health care on the planet.
An informed public said no and most people went back to their daily lives. The advocates of socialized medicine went back to their drawing boards. Now theyre back, and theyre after your kids.
The legislative vehicle for the next attempt to socialize medicine is House Bill 1304, the Colorado Basic Health Plan for Children. Advertised as health insurance for uninsured children, the bill creates a childrens basic health plan authority run by a nine member board. The board would contract with managed care plans to provide services to enrolled children. Any child under 19 without insurance for 3 months could be enrolled. Fees would be subsidized for families with incomes at or below 185% of the poverty level, or $28,860 for a family of 4.
Proponents of this plan sell it with the usual mix of false crises, vague promises, and misleading figures. Fifteen percent of Colorado children are said to lack health insurance and preventative care. But health insurance is not health care and no one says that 15% of the children in Colorado lack basic medical care. Many are uninsured for only a matter of months when their parents change jobs. Other parents pay out of pocket. Nationwide, the bulk of uninsured children are recent immigrants. The percentage of uninsured children has been stable for the last decade.
Furthermore, only three kinds of preventative care save money: prenatal care, testing newborns for congenital disorders, and some childhood immunizations. Ninety percent of all U.S. women get prenatal care in the first two trimesters, tests for congenital conditions are already required by law, and virtually all school-age children are fully immunized. More insurance will likely not raise immunization rates for younger kids; in a representative study of 1,500 Johnson amp; Johnson employees with insurance coverage, less than half of the two year olds were fully immunized.
Why present this solution in search of a problem now Papers from the 1993 White House Health Care Task Force indicate that a Kids First back-up strategy was planned if direct nationalization failed. Public schools ensure a captive audience of children and youth for school-based clinic initiatives and…a point of entry into a broader system of care.
Pennsylvania and Kentucky show just how broad school-based health care can be. In both states, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Casey Foundation funded bureaucratic efforts to impose comprehensive school-based health care. Brigid McMenamin, writing in the December 16, 1996 issue of Forbes calls this Trojan horse money. As a result of these programs, school doctors now give 11-year old girls genital exams, reportedly to catch abuse at an early age. In Kentucky, emergency regulations now permit schools to treat children for mental as well as physical ailments. Referrals for pregnancy tests and contraceptives without parental consent are routine. In short, the schools in these two states can do whatever they want. Parents who object are objecting to adequate health care.
Now Colorado is getting the treatment. As in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, millions have been spent to support state efforts to reform health care. The Colorado Childrens Campaign is funded by the Casey foundation. The Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics received $100,000 from Robert Wood Johnson. Both are listed on the HB1304 fact sheet under Ad Hoc Childrens Legislative Committee.
Robert Wood Johnson also gave the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment a 1995 grant worth $1,242,657 called Making the Grade: State amp; Local Partnership to Establish School-Based Health Centers. According to its own press release, the foundation has found that school-based clinics, 4 of which were operating in Denver high schools, had no impact on self-reported physical health or overall pregnancy and birth rates. But because traditional medical care cannot address the issues of depression, substance abuse and addiction, physical abuse, sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS, we now need broader statewide implementation of school-based clinics.
If childrens health was really their ultimate aim, HB 1304s sponsors might have proposed vouchers for conventional insurance. They didnt. Of the seven voting members on the Health Plan Board, two must be representatives or advocates of children, one must be knowledgeable in the area of school health services, and one must be a pediatrician licensed in Colorado. If this bill passes, the experience in other states shows that all it takes is 4 votes out of 7 and some foundation money to give the schools total control of your child.
Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a free-market think-tank located in Golden, Colorado.
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