We are constantly treated to the lamentations of the left about "vital" and "desperately needed" programs like SCHIP, expanded by $50 billion yesterday by Congress. But do lower-income families really need these programs? Even with premiums as high as they are due to the N.C. state regulatory costs associated with gov’t mandates – as well as the lack of competition due to the inability for people to buy insurance in other states – many lower income families in North Carolina could afford to insure their children.
Consider this: the average pack-a-day smoker in N.C. pays $3.75 per day for her habit (most addicts smoke two packs a day, but lets be conservative in our estimates). That adds up to $112.50 per month cigarette bill. A quick survey of BCBSNC.com – the virtual healthcare monopoly in NC – offers the following plans covering a 6-year-old child: Blue Advantage A, with a $1000 deductible, 80% coverage and $15 copay for office visits costs $118.29 per month. Families purchasing HSAs come out even better (I know, because I have one for my wife and child). But since most people don’t understand HSAs, let’s assume they’ll go with the familiar.
Now, consider also that: "32.9 percent of adults who are below the poverty level smoke, compared to 22.2 percent of adults who are at or above the poverty level," according to Tobaccofreekids.org (pdf). It may well be higher in N.C. And don’t forget we’re trying to cover families up to 300% of poverty. OK, so that’s 33% of our lowest-income families who could afford insurance for a child if one parent just gave up smoking. Are there other things lower-income folks might trade for a child’s healthcare? Beer? XBox games? Sugary snacks? Lottery tickets? Rims? When the government subsidizes insurance (or anything else) they have no incentive to do so. -Max Borders