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Graeme Frost and the perils of Democrat poster child abuse Updated

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 8, 2007 10:35 AM

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The most buzzworthy story on the right side of the blogosphere this weekend concerned young Graeme Frost, the 12-year-old child severely injured in a terrible car accident that also left his sister with permanent disabilities. Graeme Frost was propped up by Democrats desperate to avert the president’s veto of S-CHIP legislation, which would have massively expanded the government health care entitlement. The Dems are trying to muster up enough votes to override President Bush’s veto. They’ve scheduled a vote for Oct. 18. The boy gave the Democratic radio address last week, written for him by Senate Democrat staffers, and made several Beltway lobbying appearances with top Dem leaders. (Listen to Graeme’s address here.) The accident was horrible. The children deserve much sympathy and compassion.

But legislation-by-anecdote is a tricky thing, and should only be done when the anecdotes actually hold some water.

It turns out–as it does with so many health care stories pimped by the Democrats and the MSM–that there is much more to the Frosts’ story than meets the eye.

The family is not as destitute as the MSM has made them out to be. FreeRepublic member icwhatudo asks the tough questions the mainstream media won’t ask. Like why a “working family” in need of government-subsidized health care can afford to send two children to a $20,000-a-year-private school. And more (go to the post for more embedded links):

In a Baltimore Sun article the family claims to be raising their four children on combined income of about $45,000 a year. “Bonnie Frost works for a medical publishing firm; her husband, Halsey, is a woodworker. They are raising their four children on combined income of about $45,000 a year. Neither gets health insurance through work.”

What the article does not mention is that Halsey Frost has owned his own company “Frostworks”,since this marriage announcement in the NY Times in 1992 so he chooses to not give himself insurance. He also employed his wife as “bookkeeper and operations management” prior to her recent 2007 hire at the “medical publishing firm”. As her employer, he apparently denied her health insurance as well.

His company, Frostworks, is located at 3701 E BALTIMORE ST. A building that was purchased for $160,000 in 1999…

…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…maybe Dad should drop his woodworking hobby and get a real job that offers health insurance rather than making people like me (also with 4 kids in a 600sf smaller house and tuition $16,000 less per kid and no commercial property ownership) pay for it in my taxes.

Mark Steyn and his readers do more digging here and here.

Don Surber: “Interesting that public schools aren’t good enough for their kids but public health insurance is.”

Glenn Reynolds: “If business owners with half-million-dollar-plus homes and kids in expensive private schools now count as ‘working families,’ does this mean they’ll get tax cuts?”

Rick Moran: “I know of several independent business people who have excellent health insurance coverage for their entire family by purchasing it through group plans at associations like the National Association of Independent Businesses (NFIB) or other small business groups. In fact, most people join those organizations just to get the benefit of being able to purchase health insurance in a group, which lowers the price considerably. I daresay that If Mr. Frost can afford a $400,000 house he could easily find private health insurance to cover his family. But that’s not the point. The blatant dishonesty of the Democrats in using a 12 year old as a prop in a political soap opera whose family’s financial situation was misrepresented should be exposed for the cheap trick it was. If the President had dared to be that dishonest, the press would have been all over him. Instead, the media has played along with the Democrats and will make it appear that the President and Republicans are heartless monsters for denying little Graeme and his family the benefits they deserve. A pretty low manuever by the Democrats.”

It’s par for the course. yahoochip.jpg The use of Graeme Frost was part of a larger left-wing strategy to hide behind children and use them as cannon fodder in their losing bid to get S-CHIP passed into law. Predictably, the reflexive left is already lambasting those who scrutinized the Frosts’ case. “Class warfare?” Blame Democrats, not Republicans for that. If you can’t see the inherent unfairness in forcing people with lesser means pay for the health care of those with greater means who choose to forego health insurance to pay for other things (houses, cars, real estate, private schools), your partisan blindness is incurable.

The Frosts pushed their children into the political arena. They were joined by other parents who loaned their tots to the leftist cause for a full-press on CHIP. Children were trotted out last week pulling red wagons with signs like this…

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…and recording ads like these…and these

The Democrats have learned nothing–zip, nada, zilch–from Hillary Clinton’s disastrous exploitation of little Jennifer Bush to promote her socialized health care scheme. Let me take you on a short trip down memory lane.

In 1994, Hillary helped turn the ailing girl into a national prop. As I reported several years ago, it wasn’t merely a case of Democrat legislation-by-anecdote run amok. It was a case of notorious poster child abuse:

…Jennifer’s mother wrote a widely-publicized letter to the White House. “Do you know what it is like to choose between purchasing groceries for the week to feed your family or buying needed medications for your chronically ill child?” Kathleen Bush asked. Pale and wan, young Jennifer suffered from unidentified chronic digestive problems and myriad ailments from birth. She had her gall bladder, appendix, and fragments of her intestines removed. Those organs were replaced with a tangled cable of feeding tubes that constricted Jennifer’s 43-pound frame. Surgeons threaded a catheter into the girl’s heart. After 200 hospital visits and 40 operations, the Bush family had racked up medical bills worth more than $2 million.

Puzzled doctors and nurses scratched their heads over Jennifer’s 33,000-page medical file. The media ran maudlin profiles of the family. With TV crews in tow, saintly mother and sickly child headed up to Capitol Hill to campaign for Clinton-sponsored health insurance mandates.

Politicians unquestioningly embraced the Bushes and their tale of need. Hillary cuddled with seven-year-old Jennifer for the cameras; their mugs were splashed on the pages of USA Today and newspapers across the country. Shamelessly coached, Jennifer gave the Clintons a lucky silver dollar “to bring you good luck so everyone can have good insurance.” In another pre-programmed, kiddie-sized soundbite, Jennifer dutifully told the press: “I pray every night that I can get better – and that everyone can have insurance.”

Jennifer’s mother reveled in the relentless media attention and generous outpourings of public sympathy. Dropped by the family’s health insurer, out of a job, and in allegedly dire financial straits, Mrs. Bush poignantly appealed for government relief from the burden of Jennifer’s mysterious illness. “It’s strangling us,” she told one reporter.

But who was strangling whom? Several years before Hillary deified Mrs. Bush and elevated Jennifer to poster-child stardom, suspicious medical professionals had already begun questioning the mother’s role in making her “beautiful little angel” sick. Nurses complained that Mrs. Bush was force-feeding her child with unnecessary seizure drugs that made her vomit. Independent specialists conducted extensive tests on Jennifer and found no evidence of digestive disorders. When Jennifer was separated from her mother for treatment at a Cincinnati hospital, the starved child feasted mightily on pizza, hot dogs, and chocolate bars. Meanwhile, authorities discovered that while the Bush family claimed poverty because of Jennifer’s health problems, they had splurged on trips to the Bahamas and Disney World, house remodeling, and a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Dr. Eli Newberger, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, concluded that nothing in Jennifer’s extensive records indicated “that the child has any underlying illness except the suffering she has had to endure as a result of efforts to portray her as needing urgent care.” Jennifer was removed from her family in 1996 and has been healthy ever since.

…[In February 2000], Kathleen Bush – Hillary Clinton’s once-proud and loud sister in arms — was sentenced to five years in prison on two counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of fraud. She also pled guilty to a separate count of welfare fraud for misrepresenting $60,000 in assets on Medicaid forms. “There was probably more abuse in this single case,” lead prosecutor Bob Nichols noted, “than in all of the child-abuse cases I’ve prosecuted in my life combined.”

Mrs. Bush’s behavior is an extreme example of the Nanny State opportunism to which Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life. It’s enough to make you sick.

From Jennifer Bush to Graeme Frost, the Democrats have gladly welcomed the opportunity to use these kids as ideological human shields in the war over health-care entitlements. Ignoring the perils of poster child abuse, the mainstream media have served–and continue to serve–as willing propaganda tools. Perhaps it is time for the Left and its mouthpieces to take a political Hippocratic oath: The next time they contemplate exploiting youngsters in their drive for socialized medicine, they should Do No Harm.

***

Dr. Howard Dean doesn’t give a damn about doing more harm than good. I just got a mass e-mail from Dean pimping Graeme Frost’s story and pushing for the CHIP veto override:

This morning, President Bush rejected health care for children. Now it’s time for Democrats to reject President Bush.

If we can get 2/3 of Congress to stand up to President Bush, we can overturn his veto on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program — a program that provides health insurance for millions of kids.

We need your help to get those votes.

We’ve set up a simple tool that will allow you to write a letter and send it to your members of Congress instantly. Send your Senators and Representative a message telling them to stand up to George Bush:

http://www.democrats.org/FightForKids

George Bush made a cold political calculation this morning. He could have signed this bi-partisan bill into law, or he could have pandered to conservatives who didn’t want to see the Children’s Health Insurance Program get the funding it needs.

He decided to pander — and millions of kids will suffer for it.

What makes this veto worse is that George Bush will spend billions of dollars in Iraq, some of it on contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton, while denying millions of children needed doctors’ visits or medicine here at home.

On top of that, all of the Republican candidates for president support his veto.

Democrats are in the majority for a reason. Send a message to your Senators and Representative and let them know why that is:

http://www.democrats.org/FightForKids

This past week, Graeme Frost, a 12 year old from Baltimore, Maryland, delivered this week’s Democratic Radio Address.

Graeme is a brave young man. Three years ago, his family was in a serious car accident. Graeme was in a coma for a week, suffered severe brain trauma, and had to re-learn how to eat and walk.

Graeme is alive today because of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. As he said last weekend:

“My parents work really hard and always make sure my sister and I have everything we need, but the hospital bills were huge. We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program.

“I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP. All I know is I have some really good doctors. They took great care of me when I was sick, and I’m glad I could see them because of the Children’s Health Program.”

Families like the Frosts need your help. You can hear Graeme talk about his experience and send a message to your Senators and Representative right here:

http://www.democrats.org/FightForKids

As a doctor, I’ve seen our country’s health care crisis first-hand.

I’ve seen parents that have to wait for their kids to get dangerously sick before they could take them to a doctor. I’ve seen parents struggle over important medical care decisions because they didn’t know how to pay for it. And I’ve seen parents left in poverty because they had no other choice.

But you don’t have to be a doctor to understand the importance of health insurance for our nation’s kids. Just ask any mother or father whose child has been sick, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: that there’s nothing more important to them than making sure their kids are healthy.

As governor of Vermont, 96% of the children in my state had health insurance. That’s the sort of commitment our country needs — and the sort of commitment President Bush doesn’t have.

The American people elected a Democratic majority last fall to stand up to President Bush’s misguided priorities. Remind your Senators and Representative just what the American people stand for.

http://www.democrats.org/FightForKids

Sincerely,

Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.

***

More blog reax…

Brutally Honest
STACLU
Kathy Shaidle

And the Influence Peddler points to a case of phony health care poster child abuse. Not the first time.

A reader e-mails:

I understand that you can not respond to all the emails you receive, but I wanted to share briefly my story. In 2005 my husband had a major car accident, and no longer can do the job he used to do. We adjusted to life without the income(we now make around $25,000.00 vs $55,000.00)

Fortunately we were fairly debt free and have done well. But we can not afford to have health care out of the paycheck.So we have no health insurance. I do not cry nor do we use the system at all. We just work to keep everyone healthy. We did have a son, fracture his ankle last summer at 10 pm and had to use the ER. We explained we had no insurance and we would be paying cash. It was easy enough to explain and made 4 payments of 175.00 each.

I am really angry with those on the Left suggesting that those of us without insurance are complaining that we need something. I do not feel poor, nor do I feel the need for another to carry my family. So in light of all those who make 50,000.00 and more that complain…they do not speak for me and mine.

I believe that this ploy towards socialized medicine is one of the main reasons along with the open borders that are successfully bringing our nation down.

Thank you for you and the work you so, I have followed you a long time and appreciate all that you do to bring awareness upon those that the MSM refuses to spotlight.

***

Update 5:30pm Eastern. A word for all the faux outraged leftists accusing conservative bloggers of waging a “smear campaign:” Asking questions and subjecting political anecdotes to scrutiny are what journalists should be doing.

When a family and Democrat political leaders drag a child down to Washington at 6 in the morning to read a script written by Senate Democrat staffers on a crusade to overturn a presidential veto, someone might have questions about the family’s claims. The newspapers don’t want to do their jobs. The vacuum is being filled.

If you don’t want questions, don’t foist these children onto the public stage.

Fight your battles like adults and stop hiding behind youngsters dragging around red wagons filled with your talking points.

Bob at InsureBlog does some more reporting (now defined as “stalking” by the unhinged left):

The Frost family has a combined annual income of about $45,000, said Bonnie Frost. She and her husband have priced private health insurance, but they say it would cost them more per month than their mortgage – about $1,200 a month. Neither parent has health insurance through work.

$1200 per month for a family of 6 in Baltimore. Really? What are they smoking?

A check of a quote engine for zip code 21250 (Baltimore) finds a plan for $641 with a $0 deductible and $20 doc copays.

Adding a deductible of $750 (does not apply to doc visits) drops the premium to $452. That’s almost a third of the price quoted in the article. Doesn’t anyone bother to check the facts?

Apparently not.

Question: How many working poor couples get wedding announcements in the New York Times?

Update 2:50pm Eastern: I just returned from a visit to Frost’s commercial property near Patterson Park in Baltimore. It’s a modest place. Talked to one of the tenants, Mike Reilly, who is a talented welder. He said he had known the Frosts for 10 years. Business is good, he told me, though he characterized Frost as “struggling.” Reilly was an outspoken advocate for socialized health care without any means-testing whatsoever and an insistent critic of the Iraq war. Despite all that, he did agree with me that going without health insurance is often a matter of choice and a matter of priorities. Or maybe we were speaking two different languages.

I also passed by the Frosts’ rowhouse. There was an “01 – 20 -09″ bumper sticker plastered on the door and a newer model GMC Suburban parked directly in front of the house. I’ve seen guesstimates of the house’s worth in the $400,000-plus range. Those are high. But Mark Tapscott’s point remains: “[P]eople make choices and it’s clear the Frosts have made choice to invest in property and a business, but not in private health insurance. The Maryland-administered version of the federal SCHIP program, by the way, does not impose an asset test on applicants.” More here.

A few more notes: Allah points to this ABC News story on the Democrat reaction to blogger questions. Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley complains: “This is a perverse distraction from the issue at hand” and accuses questioners of attacking children. No. Debating the threshold for government subsidies is the issue at hand. I disagree with some bloggers’ characterizations of the family as “Yuppies.” But as so many of the commenters in the thread below point out, there are countless families of far less means who reject the notion that government-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their children is a God-given right.

On the issue of the Frosts’ children attending the $20,000/yr Park School, Manley states the students have near-full tuition discounts. It’s not clear when or how long they’ve had those scholarships. For the record, Reilly, who has known the family for 10 years, told me it was his understanding the children’s grandparents paid the bill.

Update 7:30pm Eastern. Mark Steyn is uncowed by the unhinged…

The Democrats chose to outsource their airtime to a Seventh Grader. If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man’s job, then the boy is fair game. As it is, the Dems do enough cynical and opportunist hiding behind biography and identity, and it’s incredibly tedious. And anytime I send my seven-year-old out to argue policy you’re welcome to clobber him, too. The alternative is a world in which genuine debate is ended and, as happened with Master Frost, politics dwindles down to professional staffers writing scripts to be mouthed by Equity moppets…

…So executive vice-presidents’ families are now the new new poor? I support lower taxes for the Frosts, increased child credits for the Frosts, an end to the “death tax” and other encroachments on transgenerational wealth transfer, and even severe catastrophic medical-emergency aid of one form or other. But there is no reason to put more and more middle-class families on the government teat, and doing so is deeply corrosive of liberty.

And, if the Democrats don’t like me saying that, next time put up someone in long pants to make your case.

The Baltimore Reporter recalls some more dubious Democrat health-care poster people.

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