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Are American Children Being Lured Into Socialized Medicine?

by Naomi Lopez
June 24, 1998

Executive Summary

There is no question that nearly all Americans think children should have access to quality health care. But according to a recent survey, only about one in five believe the federal government is the payer most responsible for children's health care. Most people believe the responsibility for that care rests with the children's parents.

Yet many Americans are unaware that the Clinton Administration's "Kids First" back-up plan is being implemented across the country. Fewer than one-third of Americans report hearing about a new federal program that takes a giant step toward nationalizing health care for children and overriding this parental responsibility.

Today a bevy of health care providers, private foundations, government officials, and political activists are successfully setting up universal health care for children. Their success is found in nationwide school-based health centers, Medicaid expansions, and the new $48 billion federal health care program for children. The new federal program attempts to bring middle-income children into Medicaid, the government health care program that already covers one-quarter of American children.

While current efforts to expand government health care programs for children may be well intentioned, these programs have serious unintended consequences. Experience has shown that expanding government health care programs encourages families to drop their private health insurance, reduces health care choices, infringes upon parental rights, and threatens medical privacy.

The dangers of a nationalized health care system for children -- which could serve as the precursor to a socialized health care system for all Americans -- should be publicly debated before all children are placed under a single government health care roof.

Naomi Lopez is the director of health and welfare studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, CA.

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