HHS Redistributes Unused SCHIP Funds to 28 States
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday announced that the department will redistribute to 28 states $643 million in unspent federal SCHIP funds allocated in 2002 to help some states prevent program budget shortfalls for 2005, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 1/19). On Sept. 30, 2004, $1.1 billion in unspent SCHIP funds reverted to the U.S. Treasury. In previous years, Congress voted to allow states to retain unspent SCHIP funds (California Healthline, 10/1/04).
The funds will go to 28 states, including $122.5 million to California, $104.6 million to Texas and $62 million to Tennessee (CQ HealthBeat, 1/19). Five of the states -- Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- would have faced SCHIP budget deficits without the additional funds, according to HHS. Thompson said, "No child will lose health insurance because states don't have funds to administer a program that is critical to kids who would otherwise not have regular access to health care." CMS Administrator Mark McClellan added, "I am very pleased that we can take action to prevent any loss or break in coverage because program funds weren't being used by states that needed them the most. We intend to do as much as possible to use SCHIP funds to improve access to coverage, and even with this redistribution, we expect to complete the 2005 fiscal year with over $5 billion in unspent matching funds" (HHS release, 1/19).
But Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said, "The funding dispersed [Wednesday] was nowhere near the amount we could have redistributed to states to protect the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children." He added, "Last year, the [Bush] administration allowed over $1 billion in federal SCHIP funds to revert to the Treasury, even though there was overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral support for legislation I introduced to keep that money in the program. Had the administration supported that proposal, we would have been able to give states nearly double the money that the secretary did today" (CQ HealthBeat, 1/19).