SCHIP Debate Continues
SCHIP, or the State Children's Health Insurance Program was enacted by Congress ten years ago to help families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford private insurance.
Both the U.S. House and Senate voted in favor of legislation to expand SCHIP by an additional $35 billion. But President Bush vetoed the bill, jeopardizing the insurance coverage of many low-income children.
"My grandchildren are insured through [SCHIP]," said Brenda Scott, one of those who came to Hulshof's office to express her concern. "Their parents both work and they work very hard, but they make less than $40,000 a year and they have two children with special needs health care."
Scott's grandchildren are two of the 59,000 children who receive health insurance through the federal program SCHIP.
"It's really very helpful," said Missouri Healthnet director Ian McCaslin, "for families that are working hard, trying to make a go of it, who have difficulty in terms of paying their insurance premiums. Also, very frequently their employer doesn't offer health insurance and they have no where to go to get their children covered for well check-ups, sick visits, hospitalizations, medications. These are things that we are all fortunate enough to take for granted."
Emily Smith from Citizen's for Missouri's Children, says that SCHIP "has reduced the number of uninsured children by one-third in the last 10 years."
SCHIP is the largest expansion of health insurance coverage for children since Medicaid began in the 1960s, and is financed jointly by the federal and state governments.
Hulshof's spokesperson, Scott Baker, says that the Congressman supports the SCHIP program, but not the provisions of this bill.
"There is wide agreement that this program needs to be extended," said Baker, "it needs to be expanded, we need to spend more money on the schip program. The question is how much more and what do we do with those additional dollars. Congressman Hulshof would be happy with a $15- or $20- billion expansion."
Baker added that Hulshof wants ensure that funding reaches children from low income families, but he is not confident that this bill will achieve this goal.
President Bush says that parents with children who already have insurance would drop their private employer based coverage and switch over to SCHIP.
According to a Congressional Budget Office report, "for every 100 children who enroll as a result of schip, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children."
But researchers from Brigham Young University and Arizona State University disagree, saying that children who drop out of SCHIP cost states an additional $2,000 per child. Their findings show children without insurance were 21 percent more likely to end up in the emergency room.
Meanwhile, SCHIP's future is in limbo as the reauthorization deadline has already passed.