Report: Number of Uninsured Kids Below Previous Estimates
A new Urban Institute report prepared for HHS finds lower numbers of uninsured children eligible for public assistance programs than projected by the Census Bureau and other previous estimates, HHS officials said on Monday, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week met with committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to discuss legislation that would provide as much as $50 billion to reauthorize and expand SCHIP, which will expire on Sept. 30. Baucus said that the committee will mark up legislation to reauthorize SCHIP by the end of June (California Healthline, 6/14).
The report, which the Urban Institute Income and Benefits Policy Center compiled as part of a contract with HHS, estimated that 794,000 uninsured children were eligible for SCHIP for the full calendar year of 2003-2004 (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 6/18).
The report also estimated that 1.1 million uninsured children were eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19).
The new figures "vary widely from other estimates -- including those previously done by another division of the Urban Institute, its Health Policy Center -- that find that as many as six million uninsured children are eligible for coverage under SCHIP or Medicaid at any given point in time during the year," CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 6/18).
The report focused on children who are uninsured for the entire year, compared to previous estimates that included children who lacked coverage for part of the year (CongressDaily, 6/19).
HHS in a statement said that the report "demonstrates that adding $50 billion in additional funding is unnecessary" (CongressDaily, 6/19). HHS added, "Unnecessary SCHIP expansion will force others from private insurance to public assistance."
The Bush administration supports a $5 billion increase in funds for SCHIP over five years.
But supporters of SCHIP expansion responded to the new figures with skepticism.
Baucus said, "This study flies in the face of all accepted data on the number of uninsured American children who desperately need and could receive health coverage through a renewal of" SCHIP (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19). He added, "I have been concerned before about CMS portraying political efforts as actual research."
Rockefeller said, "The study put forward by HHS is a deliberate attempt to derail continued health care coverage for children" (CongressDaily, 6/19).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, "Instead of wasting time skewing facts, I wish HHS would start working with Congress to protect the health of our kids" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19).
The Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University said that the report appears "to be part of a transparent effort to revive the administration's proposal to limit new SCHIP funding to levels far below what Congress is considering" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/18).
"As the heat gets turned up" on legislation to reauthorize SCHIP, the Bush administration "appears to be falling into its old habit of creating its own reality," New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes in an opinion piece.
HHS has begun "circulating a study that tries to make the case that the total number of eligible but uninsured youngsters is a mere 794,000, an absurdly low figure," Herbert writes.
He adds, "If you can wave a magic wand and make five million poor kids disappear, you no longer have to think about caring for them" (Herbert, New York Times, 6/19).