The Hill is reporting that Democrats are giddy at the prospect of a political fight with President Bush over SCHIP reauthorization. The newspaper reports that polls show the American public is likely to support candidates who want to expand SCHIP and Democrats can use this as a winning issue in 2008.
This raises a few questions for me: one, does the American public really know what SCHIP does? Most news reports describe the program as health insurance for kids who are too rich for Medicaid but too poor to afford private health insurance. Of course, the vast majority of kids in families with incomes between 200% and 300% (or 400%) of the federal poverty level have private insurance, but that fact is never reported. Do people just hear "health insurance for poor kids" and support it?
The larger, and more troubling, question is what if people just don't care that government benefits would be going to people who can afford health insurance? The sense I get is that a lot of people want the government to provide a larger measure of health care services than it already does. Those of us who advocate for limited government may not like this, but what if people want more government in health care? Does this mean we just have more work to do in order to shift the public's view on this issue? Can we be doing something else? I don't really know, but I certainly get the sense that for all the work those of us in the policy community have done on SCHIP in the past few months, we've had very little success in shifting the public's view on this.