Health insurance for poor kids

This past weekend the President signed a short-term extension of a program that finances health insurance for children, called SCHIP: the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. We expect the Congress today will send the President H.R. 976, a bill that reauthorizes SCHIP for five years. The President has said he will veto this bill, and we expect the House will attempt to override the veto.

This debate is generating much heat and little light. Our critics claim that, because he opposes this bill, the President doesn’t want to help poor kids.

That is of course untrue, so let’s look at where we agree with this bill, where we disagree, and what we would do differently.

Here’s where we agree.

  • We agree with the Congress that SCHIP should provide sufficient funding to States to finance health insurance for poor children. The President’s budget would increase total SCHIP spending over the next five years by 20%, from $25 B in total to about $30 B. The gold line below is past funding. The green line is a straight extension of current law (called the baseline). The light blue line is the President’s proposal. (Note that the light blue line shows an even bigger 30% increase, because some States have funds they have not yet spent.)

S-CHIP spending

  • We agree with the Congress that there should be no funding gap while we attempt to resolve our differences. At the same time we’re “aggressively debating” the right long-term solution, it’s encouraging that we have agreed not to allow funding to lapse in the short run. Last weekend the President signed a bill that will keep funding going to States through mid-November.

Here’s where we disagree.

  • We think the “C” in SCHIP stands for “children.” Over the past several years, adults have been added to SCHIP. Some were parents of kids with health insurance, others were adults without children. We were responsible for some of those additions, as we approved State waiver requests. We made a policy shift this year, based in part on further input from the Congress, and we’re now returning SCHIP to its original purpose. Over the next few years, our policy will return SCHIP to a kids-only program. States that are now covering adults will have to move them onto Medicaid or a State program. While the advocates […]