HEALTHY FAMILIES: Washington Should Focus On Health Concerns
As the Clinton administration and Congress debate whether to allow states to keep either all or a portion of unused federal funds for their Children's Health Insurance Programs, a Los Angeles Times editorial asserts that the federal government "should do [its] best to put health needs above partisan politics and punishment for past wrongs." California is set to return a "whopping" $597 million at the end of the month because it has not enrolled enough children in Healthy Families, the state's CHIP. The editorial says that the president "could back" plans being written in the House Commerce and Senate Finance committees "that would allow states to keep up to 60% of the money they are set to lose." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote to President Clinton last week asking that states be given be a two-year extension to spend the federal funds, and other California officials also have been lobbying the Clinton administration with the argument that an extension would help bolster Vice President Al Gore's candidacy, according to the Times. However, the editorial suggests that Clinton "may see the matter differently" because Hillary Clinton is running for senator in New York, a state that has spent all of its CHIP money and will receive funds from other states, including California, that have not spent their full allotment. It would be "unwise" to dismiss Feinstein's letter, which was co-signed by 59 other senators, according to the editorial, because an extension of CHIP funding would benefit 40 other states facing the same recall of funds as California. The editorial concedes that "California deserves blame for sluggishness in rolling out children's health insurance," but states that "this should not lead Washington to deny the tools needed to correct present problems, like the absence of health insurance for two million California children" (Los Angeles Times, 9/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.