State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

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Aug 31 2009 - 10:18am

When President Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009 on February 4, 2009, he expanded the existing State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to include an additional 4 million children and pregnant women, and abolished the waiting period for legal immigrant children to participate in the program.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created in 1997, was sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), who urged that it be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax. Kennedy was joined by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and their initiative was supported by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The legislation also had the support of many groups, including health insurance companies, organized labor, and the March of Dimes.

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SCHIP is administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which provides matching funds to states to extend health insurance to uninsured children in families with incomes that are low but too high to qualify for Medicaid. According to the original legislation, this amount was defined as twice the federal poverty level, and most states use this limit. Some, however, choose a higher or lower maximum allowable income. In New Jersey, for example, the limit is 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Although SCHIP is financed jointly by federal and state governments, each state administers its own program under guidelines established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. States have leeway to determine program organization, eligibility criteria, benefits packages, administrative and operating procedures, and payment levels. States also can determine what to name their programs. The Arizona program, for example, is called “Kidscare,” while Connecticut has coined the phrase “Husky Healthcare” and California chose the name “Healthy Families.”

With the signing of the Reauthorization Act, the number of uninsured children in the United States was slated to be reduced by about 50 percent over the next four and one-half years, eventually raising the number of children covered by health insurance under SCHIP to 11 million. An additional estimated 30 million of the nation’s poorest children receive health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

SOURCES:
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Chicago Tribune, Feb. 5, 2009

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