States Plan To Limit SCHIP Enrollment Without Permanent Funding

Armen Hareyan's picture

StateChildren's Health Insurance Program

Some states say thatwithout "a stable source" of funding for SCHIP this year, they muststart planning to freeze enrollment and possibly drop coverage for thousands ofchildren, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.According to the Congressional Research Service, 21 states will run out offederal SCHIP funds in 2008, with nine states facing budget shortfalls in March2008, if Congress continues to fund the program at current levels.

In California,officials within the next two weeks will decide whether to stop enrollingchildren in Healthy Families, the state's version of SCHIP, andwhether to discontinue coverage for 56,600 families beginning Dec. 31 (Coile, SanFrancisco Chronicle, 11/25). Up to 600,000 California children could lose coveragebeginning in 2008, according to estimates from the California HealthCare Foundation. Len Finocchio, a foundation spokesperson,said that current funding levels "wouldn't allow California to maintain its present caseloadand keep up with inflation" (Brink, LosAngeles Times,11/26). Californiaofficials say that they will need $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2008 to continueto enroll children at current rates.

Georgia'sSCHIP, PeachCare, already is running a deficit andmaintains current enrollment through an HHS grant. According to the Chronicle,health care providers in Georgia"are asking if they should cancel appointments for kids enrolled in theprogram, and parents are asking if they should keep paying theirpremiums." Georgiaofficials are in the process of determining which children are the sickest sothat if Congress does not reach an agreement on increased funding for theprogram, the state can discontinue coverage for the healthiest children first. RhondaMedows, commissioner of the GeorgiaDepartment of Community Health, said, "Georgia is on the edge of thecliff," adding, "We don't want to think about kids having cancer, buthow do you schedule someone for six weeks of chemotherapy if they only havefour weeks left in the program? Does the oncologist start the therapy or dothey wait? How do you plan? You can't" (San Francisco Chronicle,11/25).


Opinion Piece

Efforts to reauthorize andexpand SCHIP are a "good example of one possible path to lawdom or, inthis case, vetodom" because the bill "tacked so wildly through choppywaters that when it finally emerged from the fog, its hull had a completelydifferent number," Don Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center forScholars, writes in a Roll Call opinion piece.

Wolfensberger continues, "If the issue had been a straight renewal ofSCHIP, it would have easily sailed to enactment," but because Democraticleaders "had in mind an ambitious expansion that would cover millions ofadditional children at billions more in cost than the Bush administrationrequested," they needed to use "a variety of procedural devices toadvance their cause." Democrats are "no closer today to a veto-proofmajority but seem content sitting motionless atop an issue they hope to rideinto the 2008 elections (while keeping SCHIPafloat on a continuing appropriations barge)," according to Wolfensberger(Wolfensberger, Roll Call, 11/26).

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