CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Weighing in on CHIP Enrollment
Asserting that "most states have taken advantage of a 1997 federal initiative that offered handsome benefits if they created new children's health insurance programs," a Charlotte Observer editorial speculates about President Clinton's motives when he urged governors to do more to expand children's health coverage at their national conference this weekend. The editorial indicates that both North and South Carolina have made significant strides providing health coverage, noting that North Carolina expanded coverage to more than 25,000 children in the last year, while South Carolina added 8,000. Nationally, the number of children enrolled in the CHIP program has increased 55% in the past year. There could be two explanations for the president's behavior, the editorial maintains. The first speculates that campaign politics may have fueled the chastisement, as the only state seeing a decline in enrollment was Texas, whose governor, George W. Bush, is the leading Republican candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. The second also has politics behind it, as the president tries to enlist the help of the states in combating the recently approved GOP tax cut. In his address, the president urged states to use tobacco settlement funds to increase funds for health insurance programs, but warned states to be wary of the loss of federally funded programs should the tax cut pass. The editorial wonders: "Why is the Clinton administration even considering legal action that would give the federal government a sizable take of the tobacco settlement -- and thus limit the ability of states to provide the health coverage Mr. Clinton is chiding them to pursue?," concluding that "governors should send Washington a message on that one: Hands off, Mr. President" (Charlotte Observer, 8/10).
States Should Try Harder
"President Clinton is right to push the states to increase their efforts to cover children from working-poor families who have no health insurance," a Bergen Record editorial argues. While conceding that New Jersey's Gov. Christine Todd Whitman has signed recent legislation to increase the income eligibility ceiling to allow more children to be enrolled in the New Jersey KidCare program, the editorial notes that "too few" of those now eligible have been enrolled. The state indicates that there are some obstacles remaining that limit the enrollment numbers. First, many families eligible for the program are unaware that it is an option or are unable to fill out the necessary paperwork. Recent changes in the application process and aggressive educational campaigns have been implemented to correct those problems. Second, confusion over Medicaid eligibility remains because of welfare reform. According to recent outreach efforts in New Jersey, nearly 18,000 children who are eligible for Medicaid are not covered because "there is much confusion about who is eligible and who isn't." The editorial asserts that "the states have no excuse for dragging their feet." After welfare reform, states were given $500 million to "help them identify Medicaid-eligible children, but only $39 million has been spent." In addition, states have received money from the tobacco settlement, which they could use for health care issues. In conclusion, the editorial notes: "It is estimated that more than 10 million children lack health insurance nationwide, and that some 6 million of them qualify for a subsidized program. States should be making every effort to get the message to parents and to sign children up this fall, when school begins" (Bergen Record, 8/10).