Matthew Yglesias obviously finds all conservative arguments against S-CHIP expansion without merit, but he closes his post by casting doubt on the slippery slope idea: “I don’t really buy it, though; we started slipping down that slope decades ago with Medicare and Medicaid.”
To some extent, Yglesias is right. Medicare and Medicaid are two large government programs that provide healthcare to the general satisfaction of most beneficiaries. They are responsible for some of the cost-shifting that produces calls for further government intervention to bring those costs down. Either of them could be expanded into a large national health insurance program later on. Indeed, there are occasionally calls to extend Medicare to the under-65 crowd.
But even many liberal defenders of these programs see the merits of them being confined to the poor and the elderly; Medicare expansion has never gotten very far. Efforts to expand S-CHIP eligibility, on the other hand, have already passed Congress. They would likely become law in a Democratic administration as part of a down payment on “universal coverage.” While I think the whole S-CHIP debate shows the limits of the slippery slope argument in modern healthcare politics, some slopes are just more slippery than others.