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August 31, 2007

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Preschoolgraduation001 Most middle-class families could afford to send their children to private school if they really wanted to.  So why should we provide welfare handouts for those kids by allowing them to attend public school?  End taxpayer subsidies for undeserving children, kick them out of public school, and let the market do its work.  (I'm paraphrasing from Paul Krugman's column in The New York Times)

Gasp...pause...splutter...But wait!  Education is important.  Middle-class kids in public school raise the quality of education for poorer children!  Education is a fundamental right! OMG, how am I going to afford two private tuition bills?

Well, yes - but as Mr. Krugman points out, it's an "accident of history" that Americans expect to pay for public education for children regardless of income, but feel it is an outrage to pay for health insurance

for them, rather than the other way around.  Really, when it comes down to it, are we better off with educated children who are too sick to work or with uneducated kids who are strong and healthy? 

When my husband's company went out of business, ending our COBRA health insurance, it turned out that both he and I were considered high risk and uninsurable on an individual policy.  Our only option was a $1,500 per month "high risk" guaranteed issue policy for the family. We actually discussed going without health insurance for the adults (we're really pretty healthy people, despite what Blue Shield thinks), but when I tried to buy health insurance just for my children, I was told that it was impossible to insure children separately from their parents.

We are fortunate that we have enough savings and self-employment income to pay a health insurance bill like that.  If we didn't have enough for both health insurance and mortgage, guess which one would go first?  And then our kids would end up without coverage - since we're obviously not needy enough to qualify for Medicaid.  How many of those uninsured kids are in a similar situation to ours, just with parents with a few more bills to pay?

Sure, health coverage for our children isn't a right, just like education isn't a right.  But even if you don't believe in bleeding heart liberal philosophy that we should take care of people, it is in our personal economic interest to have healthy, well-educated kids who will grow up and work hard at good, high-paying jobs, so that their taxes will pay our Medicare bills - which need I point out goes to everyone: rich, middle-class, and poor alike. 

Thanks, Mr. Krugman, for your analogy! And come on, Sacramento and Washington, we're the richest country in the world - surely there's a little bit in there to make sure every child can get a checkup.