Governors Seek $765M To Shore Up Kids’ Insurance Program
A bipartisan group of governors at the National Governors Association winter meeting on Sunday asked Congress to provide $765 million in supplemental funds for SCHIP, the Bergen Record reports (Jackson, Bergen Record, 2/26).
States this year face a combined $700 million deficit in federal funds for SCHIP, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate (Pear, New York Times, 2/25).
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D), Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) and four other governors on Sunday held a news conference to request the supplemental funds (Howlett, Newark Star-Ledger, 2/26).
In addition, six Democratic governors and seven Republican governors on Saturday sent a letter to congressional leaders to request the supplemental funds. According to the letter, "Without quick congressional action, our states, all facing federal shortfalls, will be forced to make harsh decisions affecting the lives of thousands of families."
States with deficits in federal funds for SCHIP might have to freeze enrollment, restrict eligibility, increase premiums or reduce benefits in their programs (New York Times, 2/25).
The governors also asked Congress to revise SCHIP provisions in the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal from President Bush.
According to analysts, the proposal would lead to a combined $10 billion to $15 billion deficit in federal funds for SCHIP over five years (Tanner, AP/Detroit Free Press, 2/26). The 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 (California Healthline, 2/6).
According to the Record, "unanimity ... dissolved when it came to the long-term question of whether to insure children from families that make more than 200% of the federal poverty level ... and whether to insure adults" (Bergen Record, 2/26).
Corzine said that, without supplemental funds for SCHIP, the federal government will "end up paying for this in other ways -- uncompensated care, emergency rooms." Corzine added, "This is pay me now or pay me later." Perdue said, "It's a matter of doing the right thing. It's nonpartisan. It's bipartisan."
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said he will continue discussions with the governors but "offered little hope that the administration would accept governors' demands," the AP/Free Press reports. Leavitt said that states with surpluses in federal funds for SCHIP could use some of their funds to cover deficits in other states -- "an idea that has little support among governors," the AP/Free Press reports (AP/Detroit Free Press, 2/26).
The Wall Street Journal on Saturday examined how many states are on a bipartisan "spending spree." For example, Massachusetts last year enacted a $1.56 billion health insurance law, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) earlier this year announced a $12 billion proposal. According to the Journal, the "growing popularity of health care programs and higher teacher salaries raises the risk that states, giddy from surging revenue, may be in danger of expanding beyond their means, using short-term windfalls to create new long-term obligations at a time when tax increases remain unpopular with voters" (Cooper, Wall Street Journal, 2/24).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Sunday featured comments from Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), chair of NGA, on the winter meeting. The segment includes comments from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Reps. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) and Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) ("All Things Considered," NPR, 2/26). Audio of the segment is available online. NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday reported on SCHIP reauthorization (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/26).
Audio of the segment is available online.