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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conservatives Attack 12-year-old over SCHIP Program

With the debate still raging in Washington over children's health insurance and an upcoming over-ride vote on the horizon, congressional Democrats found a new way to make their case for the SCHIP expansion last weekend: Rather than have a senator or a congressman respond to Bush's defiant weekly radio address, they decided to have someone who was helped by the program speak directly to the public.

But 12-year-old Graeme Frost, whom Democrats chose as their poster child is now at the center of a firestorm in Washington and beyond. Conservative bloggers who uncovered some details of the family's finances are blasting the family, calling the fact that they rely on federal insurance an example of how the State Children's Health Insurance Program has expanded beyond its original intent. As usual, these attack dogs are closing in for the kill before reviewing all of the information.

Some conservative bloggers have made repeated phone calls to the home of the boy, demanding information about his family's private life. Michelle Malkin even went so far as to camp outside of his home and then harass the boy's father at his shop.

In making the case for a proposed expansion of the S-CHIP program, Democrats found a boy who seemed like an ideal poster child in Graeme Frost, a Baltimore native whose family does not have private health insurance.

When Graeme and his sister were seriously injured in a 2004 car crash, their parents relied on S-CHIP coverage to help them recover. After Nancy Pelosi's office became aware of the Frosts through a healthcare interest group, FamiliesUSA, Dem leaders turned to Graeme to deliver the party's weekly radio address Sept. 29.

"If it weren't for CHIP, I might not be here today," Frost said in the address, which was written by Senate Democratic aides. "We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program. But there are millions of kids out there who don't have CHIP, and they wouldn't get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt."

But after a largely positive story about Frost appeared in the Baltimore Sun, conservative-leaning bloggers began focusing on details of Frost's family situation. They suggested the family makes the conservative argument -- that the children's health insurance program has strayed from its original purpose by subsidizing healthcare for middle-class families, not just poor children.

A blogger on FreeRepublic.com discovered that Frost and his sister, Gemma, attend a private school where tuition costs $20,000 a year. Their father, Halsey, is a self-employed woodworker, meaning that if his family doesn’t have health insurance, it’s because Halsey Frost -- as his own boss -- chooses not to purchase it for himself.

"One has to wonder that if time and money can be found to remodel a home, send kids to exclusive private schools, purchase commercial property and run your own business . . . maybe money can be found for other things," a blogger with the handle "icwhatudo" wrote on FreeRepublic.

That posting was widely circulated in the blogosphere, making great fodder for conservatives who argue that President Bush was right to veto the Democrats’ bill expanding S-CHIP.

"People make choices and it's clear the Frosts have made choice to invest in property and a business, but not in private health insurance," Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner, wrote on his blog.

But here's the problem: Conservative bloggers didn't do their homework very well. Surprise! It turns out that the Frost children attend Baltimore’s Park School on near-full scholarships; they pay roughly $500 per child per year in tuition, he said.

Like many small-business owners, Halsey Frost can't even afford to provide health insurance to himself. I can vouch for that personally. If I had to pay the healthcare premiums for my family of four, it would easily run $1000 per month. I'm very fortunate (and grateful) that my spouse works full-time and covers us through her employer. Our insurance under that scenario was still very expensive until she accepted employment from our insurance provider. We make far more than the Frosts do ($45-50,000 annually combined) , and do not have the extra needs caused by their accident - I can't imagine how they'd survive without the SCHIP program.

Here are the facts that were "disregarded" by the righties:

1) Graeme has a scholarship to a private school. The school costs $15K a year, but the family only pays $500 a year.

2) His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred do to her accident. The school costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost.

3) They bought their “lavish house” sixteen years ago for $55,000 at a time when the neighborhood was less than safe.

4) Last year, the Frost’s made $45,000 combined. Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined.

5) The state of Maryland has found them eligible to participate in the CHIP program.

If the needs of the Frost family are what conservatives consider to be a "needless expansion" or "socialized healthcare", then they are greatly out of touch with mainstream America and the struggles of the working class people.

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Blogger Jeff Pruitt said...

My favorite part of this story is that Ezra Klein dug up some 3 year old post by attack-dog Malkin where she admits that she and her husband couldn't afford health care from the private sector.


title="comment permalink">October 11, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger Undeniable Liberal said...

It's time that somebody checks up on these idiots to see if they really are getting their tax cuts legally, or by cooking the books.

title="comment permalink">October 11, 2007 7:00 AM  

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