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Cutting our Nose to Spite our Face

By Dr. Chris Lillis

Earlier this week, I wrote about the false choice being made through legislation to either keep student loan interest rates low, or cut funding to preventive health programs.   As a physician who needed federally subsidized student loans to get through medical school, I would like to see interest rates kept low AND focus more of our health dollars on preventive strategies.  Both legislative priorities help Americans in very real ways – they should not be pit against one another.

But in this age of deficits and debt, many are concerned about government spending.  Certainly, as a near-DC resident here in Virginia, deficit talk dominates inside-the-beltway punditry. 

Apparently, deficit concerns are now trained on eliminating a 2009 program designed to boost enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).    Since 2009, States have been eligible to receive bonus payments from the federal government for reducing the administrative burden of enrolling children in CHIP, and finding vulnerable populations who were previously hard to reach.  The program has been successful, helping hundreds of thousands of children become newly insured.   In South Carolina, the program awarded the State for its streamlined program called Express Lane Eligibility that helped enroll 84,000 children.  South Carolina automatically enrolled children of families who had already had been identified (and verified) need through the food stamps program. 

What the deficit hawks are failing to realize is that this program SAVED MONEY for the State of South Carolina, through reducing redundant administrative waste. 

This seems yet another example of legislators, who may be hiding their true agenda of dismantling positive health reform through a thousand cuts, making a decision to cut our noses to spite our face.  From my perspective, we as a nation should want our children to be healthy.  We should want those healthy children to be able to afford a college education.  We should want those healthy college graduates to have access to health and wellness programs, because those healthy college graduates are our future. 

I am not a member of Congress, but I would guess there are other areas of the federal budget that can be tweaked in order to continue to pay for the SCHIP bonus program.  Just this week alone, I have read about costly weapons programs, the ongoing cost of tax cuts, the savings realized from cracking down on health care fraud, and the waste of poor resource allocation in our health care system.  Dear Congress: read these last 4 links and you will find TRILLIONS of dollars to pay for the Prevention Fund, Subsidized Student Loans and continue to incentivize States to ease enrollment in CHIP. You’re welcome. 

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