SCHIP Bill Advocates Shift Focus To Short-Term Program Extension

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StateChildren's Health Insurance Program

States and children'sgroups are calling on lawmakers to abandon efforts to pass legislation thatwould reauthorize and expand SCHIP, and instead are lobbying for a short-termextension of the program "out of concern that money is runningshort," CQ Today reports.

The program currently is being funded at fiscal year 2007 levels through acontinuing resolution that expires Dec. 14. Some House Democrats have proposedextending funding for the program until the end of FY 2008 on Sept. 30,"just in time to raise the issue again before the Novemberelections," CQ Today reports. Lawmakers in the Senate alsoare discussing a two-year extension of the program, according to Lisa Shapiro,vice president for health policy at First Focus.

However, Congress "might have as much difficulty with an extension as ithas had with a full reauthorization" because the "sticking points inthis year's debate have been less over money and more over policy changesadvocated by Republicans," CQ Today reports. Those issues,including restrictions on SCHIP coverage for adults and tighter rules aimed atpreventing undocumented immigrants from enrolling in the program, "couldarise during debate on an extension," according to CQ Today.

Democrats also likely will attempt to negate rules implemented by CMS inAugust that would require states to enroll at least 95% of children in familieswith annual incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level before expandingenrollment to children in families with incomes above 250% of the povertylevel. President Bush "would likely use his veto power, just as he hadwith the full reauthorization," if Democrats negate those rules in anextension, CQ Today reports.


Shapiro said, "We've been working on the broader bill all year long. Basically,we think they've run out of time," adding, "I think an extension isgoing to be a challenge also," but "just by the price tag, it's goingto be a smaller scale than the $35 billion reauthorization" (Wayne, CQToday, 11/27).

Wisconsin Waiver

In related news, Acting CMSAdministrator Kerry Weems on Tuesday announced that Wisconsin has been granted a federal waiverto expand SCHIP coverage to children in families with incomes up to 250% of thepoverty level, CQ HealthBeat reports. The waiver will allow the state toprovide coverage for an additional 7,600 children, according to a CMS release. Thestate originally had requested to enroll children in families with incomes upto 300% of the poverty level but modified its request to comply with the CMSrules.

According to the release, Wisconsin"estimates that about 92% of children below 200% of the federal povertylevel have health insurance." Wisconsin'sprogram addresses crowd-out by requiring a period of uninsurance beforechildren can be eligible for coverage. In addition, the state has agreed totransition adults from SCHIP toMedicaid. Weems said, "Today's announcement shows how CMS and states canwork together to ensure that children in low-income families have access tohealth insurance" (CQ HealthBeat, 11/27).

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