Debate Continues on Funding for Kids’ Insurance Program
As Congress begins considering reauthorization of SCHIP, Republican and Democratic lawmakers continue to disagree about funding levels and enrollment eligibility, the Washington Post reports.
President Bush has proposed increasing SCHIP funding by $4.8 billion over five years, while the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts estimate that an additional $13 billion to $15 billion is needed for the program to maintain current enrollment levels over the next five years. Meanwhile, some Democratic lawmakers "would like to increase funding levels by as much as $50 billion over five years," the Post reports.
A possible source of funding for SCHIP could come from ending the practice of paying higher reimbursements to Medicare Advantage managed care plans than are paid to traditional fee-for-service Medicare plans. CBO has estimated that reducing MA reimbursements could save nearly $65 billion over five years.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said, "A lot of states, including my own, have more kids that are eligible for the program but are not enrolled that we'd like to reach out to." Pallone added, "I don't understand what the president is doing. ... If he's going to hold to his commitment that he wants to cover the uninsured, this is the best way to do it."
However, Bush and many Republican lawmakers have said that some states are using SCHIP to cover adults, which is not the purpose of the program. Fourteen states use SCHIP to provide coverage to 639,000 adults, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I fear that using these limited federal dollars for adults has undermined coverage for low-income children."
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt last week said that SCHIP should not be "the engine that pulls the train of a national health insurance program" (Lee, Washington Post, 3/4).
Reporter Christopher Lee, who wrote the Post article on SCHIP, is scheduled to discuss children's health insurance in a washingtonpost.com chat on Monday at 1 p.m. EST. Questions for the chat can be submitted online.
A transcript of will be available online after the chat.