THE UNINSURED: Could CHIP Serve as a Model?
The Los Angeles Times reports that while "[u]niveral coverage isn't coming any time soon," various states' Children's Health Insurance Programs "could provide a model for incrementally extending coverage to other groups of the uninsured." The Times looks at New York's Child Health Plus plan, which "is at the vanguard of a quietly effective initiative that's showing it is possible to move forward even without a national consensus for systemwide health care reform." CHIP programs have proven popular even in some of the most conservative states because "the working poor are a constituency both parties want to help," and because "the federal government agreed to pick up a larger share of the cost for [CHIP] than it does for Medicaid." In addition, states have been given "enormous freedom to design their own programs." And while enrollment in some of the plans has lagged, "the overall experience has been sufficiently positive that some health experts are now asking whether the states and Washington could adapt the partnership model they've built for children to cover more uninsured adults." Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) has been pushing the federal government to allow his state to use CHIP money "to insure the parents of the newly covered children," and "in New York, a coalition led by the Greater New York Hospital Association is pushing for legislation to cover low-income working adults through a state program modeled on the existing Child Health Plus." So far the federal government has been mildly receptive to the idea. HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, however, notes that it would be expensive to cover adults and might cause some employers to drop coverage. She said it was one of a variety of options worth exploring, adding, "We ought to encourage different ideas. I want to plant a lot of different kinds of flowers out there" (Brownstein, 2/22).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.