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"Say, that sounds like a larf"

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Like many Americans, I’m sure, I’ve cycled over the past seven years through the range of uncharitable conclusions about The Decider. “He’s an idiot,” I’ve said once or twice. “He’s a religious maniac,” I’ve observed to friends and strangers. “He’s incompetent,” I’ve grumbled, half asleep and to no one in particular.

Today we learn that nope, at long last, he’s none of these things at all. He’s just a dick.

“I support the initial intent of the program,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. “My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you’re really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government.”

The 10-year-old program, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, costs the federal government $5 billion a year and helps provide health coverage to 6.6 million low-income children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance on their own.

About 3.3 million additional children would be covered under the proposal developed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), among others. It would provide the program $60 billion over five years, compared with $30 billion under Bush’s proposal. And it would rely on a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, to $1 a pack, which Bush opposes.

Predictably, hilzoy cuts to the chase and notes that Bush’s opposition to the program is about as well grounded as my dog’s fear of the vacuum cleaner.

In the report hilzoy cites, we learn a little more about what the Congressional Budget Office concludes about the abominable suggestion that health insurance be extended to children who don’t have a sufficient sense of personal responsibility to go out and find it for themselves:

* CBO finds that by 2012, some 4.1 million children who otherwise would be uninsured would have health care coverage under the bill.

* CBO estimates that 2.7 million of these children would be eligible for the program under the current eligibility criteria that states have set. Another 800,000 children are SCHIP children who are projected to lose their coverage and become uninsured, because states will have insufficient federal funding to sustain their existing SCHIP programs.

* This means CBO estimates that 3.5 million of the 4.1 million children who would obtain coverage rather than be uninsured — or 85 percent of them — are children with incomes below the current eligibility limits that states have set.

* Only 15 percent of these 4.1 million children would be made eligible as a result of their state broadening the SCHIP eligibility criteria, and in any event, these are children who would be uninsured if their state did not take such action.

* CBO also finds that under the bill, a total of 6.2 million more children would be covered through SCHIP and Medicaid by 2012 — the 4.1 million children just mentioned, who would otherwise be uninsured, and 2.1 million additional children, who otherwise would have some form of private coverage. In other words, only about one third (34 percent) of the children gaining SCHIP or Medicaid coverage under the bill would otherwise have private coverage.

Like I said: the man is a dick.

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