As legislation to reform our energy use and health insurance winds its way through Congress, it’s worth pausing to ask if we should tweak the system before overhauling it?
To be sure, there’s no reason why an overhaul can’t include these reforms. And there’s no reason why an overhaul can’t be incremental. Yet as two recent articles point out, there’s no reason why we can’t carry out these reforms now.
1. Strengthen energy requirements in building codes. Today’s energy requirements in building codes remain weak across half the country, and at least seven states have virtually no rules. That means that in many places, particularly the nation’s heartland, almost every new home, store and factory that goes up locks the country into unnecessary energy use for years to come.
No new technology needs to be invented to make major gains in saving energy. Products already available permit the construction of homes at least 30 percent more efficient than the national average. With enough political will, a new law can be put in place anywhere with the stroke of a pen, and made even more potent if it is coupled with tough oversight, as in Austin, Texas.
2. Eliminate hospital-acquired infections. Scrupulous adherence to simple but profoundly important practices like hand-washing, proper preparation of surgical sites, and assiduous care and maintenance of central lines and urinary catheters would save tens of billions of dollars every year.
Background: Established in 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, pronounced “s-chip”) is a partnership between the states and federal government to insure poor children. The program is up for reauthorization by September 30, but big-government liberals want not just to renew it, but also to expand it.
The problem is, the expansion contradicts SCHIP’s original, limited intent.
First, it redefines eligibility by recognizing people up to 21 as “children.”
Second, it extends coverage to a family of four with an income of $82,600—hardly a “low-income” group.
Third, by removing the requirement for reauthorization, it transforms SCHIP from its current block grant status into a permanent entitlement, like Medicaid, which is automatically funded every year, regardless of congressional approval.
Thus, what’s being proposed is not reauthorization but repudiation. SCHIP was intended to insure kids. Now it’s being exploited to encompass adults and even wealthy families. Instead of distorting language and creating new entitlement programs, we should reaffirm sensible age, income and reauthorization parameters.
Furthermore, the proposed expansion crowds out private insurers in favor of government health care. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill will cause nearly two million people to abandon market-based medicine for Washington-based mandates.
In order to avoid caricature, this debate is not about whether to insure poor children. This debate is about how to insure them: not via welfare-style coverage, but via market forces that have facilitated the world’s most advanced drugs and cures.
Finally, at a time of ballooning deficits, expanding SCHIP makes a mockery of fiscal responsibility. According to CBO estimates, the bill will cost nearly $60 billion over 10 years, which is 10 times President Bush’s budget request.
Moreover, in order to finance all this, smokers would be hit with an extra half dollar in taxes for every pack of cigarettes they buy. Such a sin tax is inequitable and regressive.
Democrats are picking up where Hillary Clinton left off 14 years ago. Their Hillary Care-lite legislation deserves the same fate as hers: ignominious defeat.