CHN: Danger Looms For Children’s Health Care In 2007
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a program created in 1997 to expand health care coverage to the millions of uninsured children living in the U.S., faces federal funding shortfalls for fiscal year 2007. These shortfalls are quite alarming; especially at a time when the Census Bureau is reporting that the number of children without health insurance grew to over 8 million in 2005, the first time the proportion of uninsured children has risen since 1998. For years, SCHIP allowed more children to receive coverage, bucking the trend of declining health insurance among adults. But now, insufficient federal funding for SCHIP has started to make things worse, with 17-18 states unlikely to be able to sustain their existing SCHIP programs in fiscal year 2007.
Currently, thanks to SCHIP, over 4 million low-income children who might otherwise not be able to receive proper health care are able to see a doctor and entitled to immunizations, regular checkups, and hospital care. Unfortunately, due to the way SCHIP is financed some of these children may be forced to join the ranks of the uninsured by the end of this year.
Unlike Medicaid, SCHIP is a block grant with a fixed annual funding level. Therefore, the federal funding states receive under SCHIP does not keep pace with the rising cost of health care or population growth. Several sources, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Congressional Research Service and other independent analysts, estimate that over a dozen states may have to grapple with $800 to $950 million in total funding shortfalls in 2007. If these states don’t receive additional federal funding they may be forced to reduce their SCHIP enrollment. The following states are in this predicament: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Congress has the power to keep SCHIP from being under-funded in these states. It approved additional funding for 12 states for fiscal year 2006 as part of the Deficit Reduction Act. It can do so again this year.
SCHIP is up for reauthorization in 2007. If Congress does not increase annual block grant funding beyond the FY 2007 level of $5.04 billion, shortfalls will worsen each year.
For more information on the SCHIP funding shortfalls and for links to additional resources please visit RESULT’s website at: http://www.results.org/website/article.asp?id=1561