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Institute for Health Freedom Sponsors A Health Policy Forum at the National Press Club

August 12, 1998

The Institute for Health Freedom held a health policy forum at the National Press Club on June 24 to discuss current tobacco tax and children's health care issues. At that time, the Institute also released a new study titled Are American Children Being Lured into Socialized Medicine?

Policy experts from around the country gathered to discuss current efforts to expand government health care programs through the use of tobacco taxes. Proceeds from the forum follow:

Why a Forum on Tobacco and KidCare?

"While a lot of media attention has been paid to the call for raising tobacco taxes to pay for new children's health care programs, very little attention has been paid to the unintended consequences of expanding government health care programs for children," said Sue Blevins, President of the Institute for Health Freedom. "That is why we are holding this forum today -- to share perspectives on tobacco and children's health care that others have not covered."

Universal Health Care Still Alive

Ed Hudgins of the Cato Institute reminded Americans that the original Clinton health care plan was going to be funded by tobacco taxes. He held up a copy of a book titled The President's Health Security Plan, saying "don't forget this plan was going to be funded by sin taxes in the sum of $105 billion dollars."

Hudgins also pointed out that although the universal health care plan failed to get passed at the federal level in 1994, the Kids First back-up plan was recently enacted at the state level. "The same thing is likely to happen with the tobacco issue. If it doesn't get passed at the federal level, supporters will probably move their tobacco proposals to the state level," added Hudgins.

Medicaid a Middle Class Entitlement?

Naomi Lopez of the Pacific Research Institute, author of the study released that day, presented an overview of current efforts to expand government health care for children at the state level. She stressed that, while nearly all Americans agree that children should have access to quality health care, the majority believe that parents should be the one's controlling children's health care decisions -- not the federal government. "However, parental control is being diminished by new federal and state children's health care programs," Lopez warned.

The new State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is both the federal and state governments' main avenue for expanding new programs. Enacted as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, SCHIP gives states $48 billion federal dollars over ten years to expand their Medicaid programs or create new state programs.

"Most states are expanding their Medicaid programs," said Lopez. "Some states are expanding Medicaid to families with incomes three to four times the poverty level." This, in turn, will encourage families to drop private coverage in lieu of the new government health care programs. In the end, families will lose control over how their children's health care is administered.

Lopez also cited another way that children are being enrolled in government health care. "One of the most frightening examples of this expansion is being done through school-based health centers. Children are receiving health and medical services in public schools, often without parental consent," she advised.

Lopez added, "School-based health centers are growing rapidly and are expanding their missions to include a broad array of services such as psychological and reproductive counseling." She also warned that, while helping to cover uninsured children is a noble goal, policy makers should make sure they do not force all children into a single government health program, as has happened to seniors with Medicare.

Alternative for Covering Uninsured Children

John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation, explained how North Carolina is tackling the children's health insurance issue.

"North Carolina has figured out a way to give working families a tax credit for the purchase of children's health insurance," said Hood. This approach, he explained, would establish tax fairness because, currently, families who purchase health insurance on their own must pay taxes on that purchase, while health insurance purchased through an employer is fully excluded from taxation. The North Carolina approach would level the playing field for health insurance taxation, thus encouraging working families to obtain private health coverage for their children.

Finally, panelists responded to queries from attendees who included a broad array of policy experts from think tanks, Congressional staffers, and journalists. Additionally, television reporters from America's Voice interviewed the panelists. The interviews were aired on two television programs, along with live appearances on the programs by Naomi Lopez.

For a copy of the study titled Are American Children Being Lured into Socialized Medicine? visit the following web site:
or write to the Institute for Health Freedom, 1155 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036.

This article was originally published in the July/August issue of Health Freedom Watch.
Helping to cover uninsured children is a noble goal, but lawmakers should make sure they do not force all children into a single government health program, as has happened to seniors with Medicare.