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Adam Thompson on July 15, 2008 - 11:18am
Many health care advocates believe that as you build public programs into the middle class, more and more Americans -- voting Americans in particular -- will become invested in those programs and more welcoming of a universal system. As a first step to universal access to coverage, states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have built health care programs to cover all kids, a strategy feared by the Right. A 2007 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 84% of voters support expanding SCHIP to cover all uninsured kids.
The Wall Street Journal referred to all-kids coverage as universal health care on the "installment plan." It has urged conservatives in Congress and the Bush Administration to oppose broad expansion of SCHIP, believing it is a first step towards health-care-for-all -- a good thing in the minds of progressives and a backhanded compliment to such strategies. As Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who continues to make coverage for all children in his state a priority, said, "If you drive the plan into the middle class, it's not just viewed as a public assistance program. You build a base of support for the program to provide health care for all of us."
Many other states have extended kids' coverage up to 300% of the poverty line. New York in 2007 went further by increasing SCHIP eligibility for children in families with incomes up to 400% of the poverty line ($80,000 for a family of four). Despite the Bush Administration's refusal to authorize a robust expansion of SCHIP, New York lawmakers are committing state funds to follow through with the promised expansion. The state will also allow families above 400% without other options to purchase the SCHIP coverage at full-cost, which is still cheaper and likely more comprehensive than private options.