States face SCHIP funding shortfalls as Congress debates program's funding, formula, eligibility

Fourteen states this year are facing federal budgetary shortfalls for SCHIP because of inflation, higher enrollment levels and program expansions, USA Today reports. Democratic lawmakers want to provide an additional $745 million through a bill funding the Iraq war to maintain coverage levels through the end of this fiscal year.

If the government does not allocate more than its current $5 billion annual allotment for the program, 35 states will face shortfalls by 2012 and 1.5 million children could lose coverage, according to USA Today. Some lawmakers see SCHIP as a "precursor to universal coverage" and want to allocate $60 billion over five years to enroll an additional six million eligible children in the program, USA Today reports. President Bush has proposed a funding level of $4.8 billion over five years, and he wants the program to refocus on providing coverage to low-income children. In recent years, some states have expanded enrollment eligibility to include children in families with higher income levels and some adults. Georgia's SCHIP, PeachCare, will freeze enrollment beginning Sunday because of budgetary shortfalls. Other states facing shortfalls this year are Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin (Wolf [1], USA Today, 3/9).

Debates Over SCHIP Eligibility, Funds
In related news, USA Today on Friday examined the disagreements in Congress over SCHIP eligibility requirements and funding levels. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a $13.4 billion increase over five years would be needed to avoid cutbacks. Some governors "are rebelling against a federal funding formula that's partly based on the number of uninsured children," which they say "penalizes states that aggressively sign up children," USA Today reports. Each state has unique eligibility levels, which "has created a patchwork of haves and have-nots" in children's health insurance across the nation, according to USA Today. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said, "It seems to me that a poor kid who's uninsured in Georgia is no different from a poor kid who's uninsured in Colorado or Kentucky or Iowa or Missouri or Washington" (Wolf [2], USA Today, 3/9).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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