Advocacy Groups Analyze Effects of Return of SCHIP Funding
Some states could face budget shortfalls for their SCHIP programs in 2005 if $1.1 billion in unspent state SCHIP program funding is returned to the U.S. Treasury on Sept. 30, money that could be used to provide health coverage to 750,000 children, according to analyses by advocacy groups, the Washington Post reports (Connolly, Washington Post, 9/25). In 2000 and 2003, Congress voted to allow states to retain unspent SCHIP funds, but this year the funds are included in the federal budget baseline (California Healthline, 9/24).
An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the return of the $1.1 billion will cause 17 states by 2007 to use all available funding for their SCHIP programs and six states will use all available funding for their SCHIP programs this year. HHS spokesperson Kevin Keane said the $1.1 billion will be used in President Bush's "Cover the Kids" campaign and will be distributed as grants to states, community groups and religious organizations over a two-year period. According to Keane, most states said they likely will not spend all of the SCHIP program funding allotted to them for 2005.
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said, "The irony is this president talks constantly about not leaving any child behind and how he is going to cover so many kids. In truth, that ended up being false. He's just moving money around." She added, "If the Bush administration really cared about covering children, one of the things it could do immediately is make sure this $1 billion is used for SCHIP."
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "When you do outreach, it doesn't help if there's no money to cover people." However, Keane said that the administration considers the $1 billion slated for Cover the Kids to be new state SCHIP program funding, adding, "The president believes we need to try a new approach to enrolling children in SCHIP. The Cover the Kids campaign is his vision for more effectively reaching eligible children and getting them enrolled" (Washington Post, 9/25).