Plan to get more kids enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today approved a plan by California to raise the income level for eligibility for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to include more children.

The state will expand coverage to children up to age 19 in families whose income is up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) in four selected counties: Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. The state currently covers children in families with incomes up to 250 percent of FPL. The FPL is $18,850 for a family of four. The state hopes to enroll nearly 33,000 children in this program, known as C-CHIP, or county children's health insurance program. Today's approval also will raise the income level statewide to 300 percent of FPL for children up to age 2 whose mothers are enrolled in the Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM) program. The state expects to add nearly 5,000 AIM-eligible children because of today's approval.

"With today's change, California is expanding its committment to the health care of children," said Secretary Thompson. "The SCHIP program in California and across the country continues to provide health coverage to millions of low-income children."

"As a physician, I know how important it is for young children to have access to routine, preventive medical care," said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency within HHS that oversees the SCHIP program. "This new plan will help more kids receive the kind of care that can prevent long-term health problems."

While the SCHIP program was originally targeted to children up to 200 percent of FPL, HHS has approved 12 state plans that provide coverage for children at higher income rates. Six of these states provide coverage for children with incomes at or above 300 percent of FPL. Children in both these programs will receive the same benefits as other children in the California SCHIP program, known as Healthy Families. Cost-sharing charges for families will vary from county to county, with an annual cap on copayments for health services at $250 per family.

SCHIP is a state/federal partnership program signed into law in 1997 with a budget of $40 billion over 10 years. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories have an SCHIP program which provides health insurance coverage to children in families with incomes too high for traditional Medicaid, but yet not enough to afford private coverage. Nationwide, the SCHIP program provided health coverage to about 5.8 million children at some point in fiscal year 2003.

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