CHN: New Children’s Health Bill introduced In Senate
Last week, during “Cover the Uninsured Week”, Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). S. 1224, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, strengthens and expands the existing program by providing more tools and resources to states to cover and better serve millions more children.
At any point during Fiscal Year 2006, the SCHIP program covered 6 million children. According to the bill’s sponsors, the new legislation provides additional resources to maintain coverage for these children and enroll 3 million more eligible but un-enrolled children over the next five years and 6 million over 10 years. There are 9 million uninsured children in the United States, many who are eligible for SCHIP and Medicaid but are not enrolled.
The bill would:
- Improve the SCHIP financing structure in various ways, such as adjusting states’ allotments to reflect their current and future funding needs and taking into account health care inflation and population growth;
- Give states tools for signing up more eligible children, including the “Express Lane” eligibility option which allows states to use financial information collected from WIC, school lunch, and other means-tested programs to identify and enroll children eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid;
- Allow states to expand coverage of children up to 300% of the poverty line (this year, up to $51,510 for a family of three);
- Include provisions to cover legally present immigrant children and pregnant women;
- Require dental and mental health services;
- Undo the cumbersome and restrictive Medicaid requirements imposed by the Bush Administration for documenting citizenship by restoring the state option to determine how to document citizenship for Medicaid eligibility;
- Establish a new child health quality and access initiative; and
- Strengthen premium assistance programs.
The Senate Finance Committee has indicated that it will take up SCHIP reauthorization in late May or early June. It is likely that Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Finance Committee, will introduce his own proposal for mark-up. Advocates hope his bill incorporates many of the provisions of S.1224.
For a more detailed summary of the bill please visit the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families’ website at: http://ccf.georgetown.edu/.