Bush Avoids Comment on Funding for Kids’ Insurance Program
President Bush on Monday "gave no ground" to governors on their request for supplemental funds for SCHIP or additional funds for the program in his fiscal year 2008 budget proposal, CongressDaily reports (Koffler, CongressDaily, 2/26).
The governors -- currently in Washington, D.C., for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association -- have asked Congress to provide $765 million in supplemental funds for SCHIP. States this year face a combined $700 million deficit in federal funds for SCHIP, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The governors also have asked Congress to revise the budget proposal, which analysts have estimated would lead to a combined $10 billion to $15 billion deficit in federal funds for SCHIP over five years. The budget proposal also would limit SCHIP eligibility to children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $38,000 for a family of four, although a number of states have expanded eligibility to children and adults in families with annual incomes more than 250% of the poverty level.
The governors have not reached an agreement about restrictions on SCHIP eligibility based on age or income (California Healthline, 2/26).
Bush met with the governors on Monday but did not comment directly on SCHIP (Tanner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that he would work with Congress to find "a short-term solution" for the need for supplemental SCHIP funds but added that states could avoid deficits through more effective management of their programs. Leavitt said that, during his tenure as governor of Utah, "when we were out of an allotment, we just discontinued enrolling people until we had room."
In addition, Leavitt said that some states could reduce SCHIP benefits.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) said, "In the meeting with the president and Secretary Leavitt, when questions were raised about children maybe having to be removed from the program or eligible children not being able to participate, we were told that that was basically a management problem."
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) said that the budget proposal could result in a reduction in health insurance rates among children in the state. Douglas said that fewer than 4% of Vermont children lack health insurance, adding that "we don't want to lose ground" (Pear, New York Times, 2/27).