The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), called Healthy Families in California, will expire on September 30 if it is not reauthorized and approved in the federal budget. Created in 1997, the program provides health coverage for children in families who cannot afford private insurance but whose income makes them ineligible for Medi-Cal. It is funded with both federal (about 70%) and state monies and currently covers 800,000 children in California, 6.6 million in the U.S. Despite the assistance provided by SCHIP and other children's health insurance programs, including the Early and Periodic Screening and Diagnosis and Treatment program, 800,000 children remain uninsured in California, eight million nationwide.|
At $25 billion, authors of a 2007 public health insurance study called current federal funding of SCHIP "inadequate," requiring contributions from state sources. California currently receives $800 million in federal SCHIP funding a year and spends $1.3 billion. Children and health care advocates support the House of Representatives' proposal for a $47 billion increase over the next five years, but the U.S. Senate bill funds the program at $36.4 billion. Both bills would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes to pay the extra cost. President Bush is seeking only an additional $5 billion over the next five years and proposes to lower eligibility to families earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level, a move advocates said will leave 200,000 California children uninsured. The California HealthCare Foundation predicted that nearly one million children would lose coverage under the president's proposal by 2012. The Foundation's report on children's health insurance programs can be read at <http:// www.chcf.org/ documents/ policy/ ChildrensHealthInsuranceProgramsFacts Figures.pdf>.
The Legislature recently passed a resolution asking California Congressmembers to ensure SCHIP reauthorization. The Senate Health Committee said the program has been "enormously helpful in ensuring that children who are uninsured and are ineligible for Medicaid receive health insurance coverage."|
The House and Senate still need to negotiate a compromise proposal and the president, calling the Senate proposal a "massive expansion of the federal role" in health care financed by "a huge tax increase," has already stated that he will not sign either proposal, so Congress may need to secure a two-thirds majority in both houses in order to pass a bill. The Senate has the required count to override the veto for their bill, but it is unclear if Congress will be able to maintain that majority on a compromise. "There is a very real danger (that SCHIP will not be reauthorized before the deadline)," according to Ron Spingarn of the California Managed Rick Medical Insurance Board. "If SCHIP is not reauthorized, we don't know what the impact will be, but the state has enough funding to last until March '08," he said. "If some deal were struck, (between the President and the Congress), hundreds of thousands of (California) children will be affected." Spingarn added, "We would need a significant increase just to maintain the current enrollment at 200% (of the federal poverty level)." The California HealthCare Foundation reported the state would need an additional $60 billion. Their report, Funding California's SCHIP Coverage: What will it Cost? can be viewed at <http:// www.mrmib.ca.gov/ MRMIB/ HFP/ SCHIP_Paper_Final.pdf>.
Last November, a coalition of groups supporting universal coverage for children held a Capitol news conference to ask Governor Schwarzenegger to fulfill
his promise to cover California's uninsured children. "Every year these children go without health coverage, they risk falling behind in school," said Deena Lahn, policy director for the Children's Defense Fund in California. "A year in a child's life is a long time, and children just can't wait any longer." The Governor responded that he would "definitely" be able to cover all of the state's children in this budget year. The coalition's website, which includes the Governor's record on children's health insurance can be found at <www.fulfillthepledge.org>.|
Kristen Golden-Testa of the Children's Partnership, also a member of the coalition, said she is very concerned about the impact on California's children if an SCHIP bill is not passed on time. "We hope the Congress does stand by children and reauthorizes SCHIP. We hope it will not only be a strong bill, but a timely bill." Golden-Testa said, "The president's proposal is woefully insufficient." She said the Gingrich-controlled Congress originally passed the program. "It's been such a successful and bi-partisan program, so the president is a little isolated in his objection to moving forward with the proposal." What will the impact be to California's children if the federal government fails to pass SCHIP before the deadline? "Children will lose health insurance." Golden-Testa estimated that the state would lose about $1 billion. "Children will lose coverage despite all the great efforts of the Governor and the Legislature."
View the SCHIP website at <http:// www.cms.hhs.gov/ home/ schip.asp>
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This page last updated 9/25/06.