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Moving forward on SCHIP

The Senate passed its version of legislation to renew the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Thursday, bringing the bill very close to its long overdue White House signing ceremony. The new bill is expected to cover an additional 4.1 million uninsured children by 2013.

Most importantly, the new bill – like the old ones vetoed by President Bush – gives states new funding to sustain and strengthen their SCHIP programs. This will occur just in time, as families hit by the economic downturn look for affordable coverage options. It also gives states new tools to reach already-eligible, uninsured children and provides them with performance-based incentives to enroll them.

I’m thrilled about this bill. Not because I think it will solve everything, but because it will offer concrete help to many kids who need it now and can’t wait until we figure out comprehensive health reform.

It is fair to say, however, that not everyone shares my joy.

The Senate debate over the bill turned ugly, with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) shouting across the Senate floor that Democrats were “ruining SCHIP.” It was a ridiculous charge, especially because the heart of the moving forward – indeed, nearly all of the details – were taken from a bipartisan package put together by Senators Max Baucus, Charles Grassley, Jay Rockefeller and Orrin Hatch.

The one new, notable provision in this bill is a state option to eliminate a 5-year waiting period for coverage now applied to legal immigrant children and pregnant women. While I understand some members don’t like the idea, it was added through a fair and open process during mark up in the Senate Finance Committee on a vote of 12 to 7. And, many of the Senators who now consider it a deal-breaker, have actually voted for it before when it was part of the Medicare Modernization Act. It wasn’t a deal-breaker then and shouldn’t be one now, when it comes to children’s coverage.

As for next steps, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the House of Representatives will quickly pass the Senate version of the SCHIP legislation, eliminating the need for a conference committee. This means it will be on President Obama’s desk in the next week or two.

Jocelyn Guyer is the deputy executive director at the Center for
Children and Families (CCF) and a senior researcher at the Georgetown
University Health Policy Institute. This post represents her personal
opinion not that of the Institute.

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Josh
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Josh

Anyone who thinks illegals wont be able to access this program is a fool. I keep hearing people say “Are you going to punish a 5 year old because his father is an illegal alien?” I’m not punishing him. If his father hadn’t brought him here in the first place then there would be no problem. Lets be perfectly clear on the moral argument here. It is not my fault there are children of illegal aliens in this country. It is the illegal alien’s fault. Thier unethical actions cannot create a moral dilemma for this country. Giving any benefits to… Read more »

don
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don

every small business owner like me will be droping family coverage for employees tomorrow. i am meeting with my bcbs rep. next wk to discuss next years premiums without the children. none of my employees makes over 80k a year.

Nate
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Nate

More interesting facts on this great program; SCHIP’s great expense stems from the fact that in many cases, it simply enrolls children who were already insured privately. Economists Jonathan Gruber and Kosali Simon estimate that out of every ten children added to the SCHIP rolls, six already had private coverage. Only in government is a program deemed to “work” when it covers four uninsured children for the price of ten. The current proposal will only exacerbate this problem. Congressional Democrats want to expand SCHIP to children in families of four earning up to $80,000 per year. The Congressional Budget Office… Read more »

Jocelyn Guyer
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Jocelyn Guyer

Nate — The one new notable provision in the bill IS the state option to cover legal immigrant children. All of the other provisions were included in one or more earlier bills and supported by two-thirds of Senators. Those earlier bills were jointly crafted by Democrats and some leading Republicans.
In my post, I wasn’t setting out to provide a comprehensive review of the complaints raised by the minority of Senators who opposed this bill on the Senate floor, but think you’ve done a nice job of doing that for those looking for this information.

Nate
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Nate

http://gop.gov/c/journal_articles/view_article_content?&groupId=1&articleId=1095&version=1.0 The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ official budget scorekeeper, estimated that Sec. 211 of the first version of H.R. 976 vetoed by the President would cost the federal taxpayer $3.7 billion over 10 years. Despite Democrat claims to have definitively prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving SCHIP benefits, the CBO cost estimate of Sec. 211 in the new version of the bill (CBO letter to Chairman Dingell, 10/24/07) The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and the Social Security Administration say that supplying a Social Security number, even a valid one, does not prove citizenship, and the Social Security Administration says it… Read more »

Nate
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Nate

I trust the words of a republican politician only slightly more then those of a Democrat and that’s zero. Hatch and the other 400+ of them need to pull their heads out of their back sides and address issues like this; HSS 2008 PERM “States receive a higher matching rate for SCHIP than for Medicaid, thus creating incentives for States to inappropriately enroll Medicaid-eligible children in SCHIP. Most recently, OIG found that an estimated 4 percent of children enrolled in separate SCHIP programs were eligible for Medicaid in 2006, representing an increase over the 1-percent error rate found in 2003.… Read more »

Jocelyn
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Jocelyn

Thanks, Nate. The 4.1 million uninsured figure is from the Congressional Budget Office’s official score of the SCHIP bill. It reflects the number of otherwise uninsured kids who are expected to gain coverage by 2013 if this bill is signed into law. By this date, a total of 6.5 million children are expected to be covered as a result of the bill, but 2.4 million of them otherwise would have had private insurance. This is due to the much-discussed “crowd out effect,” which always occurs when you expand public programs. In this case, though, it has been characterized by the… Read more »

Nate
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Nate

for an accurate view of the opposition; This is their atual words “The Senate Republican Policy Committee said it objects to a provision of the bill that would allow states to waive the federally mandated five-year waiting period for documented immigrant children and pregnant women to qualify for SCHIP. The committee also said that a provision of the measure that would loosen citizenship documentation requirements could make it easier for undocumented immigrants to sign up for the program (CongressDaily, 1/27). In addition, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) expressed concern that the reauthorization bill does not go far enough to ensure that… Read more »

Nate
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Nate

Jocelyn, Where did you get your 4.1 million number? Every study I have read said 4.1 million new enrollees are expected, that is not 4.1 million kids that where uninsured, 2 million of those are expected to come from exisiting policies being cancelled. With the increased income up to 80K plus covering your kid through SCHIP will be cheaper, for now, then covering them through your employer. Your missing the entire argument on the expansion of SCHIP to legal immigrants. Under the current law they must have a SSN, that is being eliminated and states are being allowed to enroll… Read more »

Jocelyn
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Jocelyn

I’m probably not the best one to explain. From a child health perspective, it is clearly the right thing to make sure children don’t have to wait five years for coverage. For a child, especially one with speech delays, asthma, etc., this is a lifetime. But, I gather from listening to the Senate debate that, yes, some opponents of the provision do believe that it will encourage more legal immigrants to come to this country. I’m not an immigration expert, but I’m dubious as to the validity of this argument. My understanding is that families who come to the United… Read more »

Read
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Read

Constitutionally, legal immigrant children are US citizens as much as those that are born here. Right? Are we afraid of encouraging legal immigration? I’m not sure I understand this one…