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Redefining Poverty Upwards -- For Political Gain

In the battle over the expansion of the S-CHIP bill, which would greatly increase the number of children covered by government-subsidized health insurance, there were a lot of arguments going around. One I read -- and quoted without checking -- is that the planned increase would make some families simultaneously poor enough for government help, and rich enough to get nailed with the Alternative Minimum Tax.

I took that talking point, and repeated it. I shouldn't have. It turns out that factoid (or, rather, "fictoid") was based on an early draft, which would have set the limit at 4 times the poverty level. The bill Bush vetoed used a multiplier of 3. The Heritage Foundation's piece on it is -- to put it kindly -- outdated.

I went over to ask.com and went digging. It turns out that the median family income in 2006 was $58,832 per year. The S-CHIP bill defines "poor children" who would qualify for this as those whose families make as much as $62,000 per year.

According to this article, the revised changes would increase the number of children covered by 50%, or 6.6 million to 10 million. And according to Wikipedia, this would cost $7 billion a year -- or about $2,000 per child per year. That's presuming, of course, that the government got the numbers right -- and that's never a safe bet. Government spending ALWAYS goes over projections.

I think that the S-CHIP program ought to be indexed, not fixed. And a multiplier of the poverty level seems fairly appropriate. But a factor of 3? To people making above the median income?

I don't think I'd shoot my mother for THAT.



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Comments (7)

Not sure about some of your... (Below threshold)
herewegoagain:

Not sure about some of your numbers, Jay.

According to the Census Bureau's August 2007 report (link below), Median household income in 2006 was $48,201, up from '05 in real dollars.

The poverty thresholds depend on family size, but the weighted average for a family of 4 is $20,614. Poverty rates were down slightly in '06 from '05.

http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/p60-233.pdf

Not to be nit picky, but th... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Not to be nit picky, but this should be median family income with eligible children.

Which would make possible sense if it was since the typical years someone has kids would intersect with their higher income years and eliminate most retired folks from the accounting. But that's just a guess.

Jay Tea:Part of th... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Jay Tea:

Part of the problem here is defining what constitutes "poverty." The original point of SCHIP was to extend assistance to families that had too much income for Medicaid, yet had too little income to purchase their own health insurance. And without commenting on the merits of this bill one way or the other, I'll simply state that the point is to allow states more flexibility in defining where that point is; differences in local economies can affect the definition of who is "poor" and who is "not poor." The cost of living in Hoboken, New Jersey, just outside of New York City, is far higher than the cost of living in say, Dubuque, Montana -- and expanding SCHIP is a way to allow states to compensate for that.

--|PW|--

"I'll simply state that the... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"I'll simply state that the point is to allow states more flexibility in defining where that point is; differences in local economies can affect the definition of who is "poor" and who is "not poor." The cost of living in Hoboken, New Jersey, just outside of New York City, is far higher than the cost of living in say, Dubuque, Montana -- and expanding SCHIP is a way to allow states to compensate for that." -- pennywit

Hey, conservatives don't do nuance, okay???

It's all bullshit. Just an... (Below threshold)
John:

It's all bullshit. Just another step towards socialized medicine. A family of 4 making 80 grand is eligible for free health care for their kids.

Nothing is free folks. Someone has to pay for it and the fricking libs buy your votes with someone else's hard work.

Next year it will be 100 grand.

Then it will cover the parents.

Ooooh, free health care. If it costs nothing, it is worth nothing and everyone will take it for granted. Doctors won't go through the hell they go through and end up with 6 figure student loans to go work for the government.

It's all a bullshit vote buying scheme that the Dems use to keep people dependent on the nanny state. People don't know their freedom is being taken from them one dollar at a time.

The language of the bill do... (Below threshold)

The language of the bill doesn't extend eligibility to children who are uninsured; in fact, most of those who would be covered by the expansion of the program are already insured. Of course, there would be a strong incentive to take the free government handout instead of continuing to pay for private coverage.

Like the "competition" in Hillary's plan, it is merely designed to drive people to "choose" government plans over private insurance, with the object of squeezing the health insurers out of the market eventually. Then the socialists will claim it was "market forces" which dictated the change. A stacked deck - the only game the socialists know.

We will always have poor pe... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

We will always have poor people. If double our spending on the poor, there will still be poor people. It becomes matter of what level of poverty we are willing to accept.

It would seem to me that there is a level where the returns on funding the poor are negative. Moving money from places where it can create wealth, employment, and opportunities to programs where it simply maintains people in a better state of poverty is counterproductive to eveyones long term interests.




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