States would receive $13 billion in federal block grants over the next five years to subsidize health coverage for low-income children under legislation that a House panel passed last week.
The House Commerce Committee also sought to tighten the Medicaid safety net for low-income children through a number of smaller steps, including increasing enrollment among Medicaid-eligible children and locking in children's eligibility for Medicaid for one year once their family incomes qualify them for Medicaid.
The committee's decision to send its children's healthcare package to the full House was the first congressional action on the issue this year.
That action fulfills the commitment in the balanced-budget framework signed by congressional Republicans and the White House to spend $16 billion over five years on expanding healthcare coverage for 5 million low-income children through both Medicaid and state grant programs.
But Peters Willson, vice president for public policy with the National Association of Children's Hospitals, raised concerns that members of Congress are supporting the children's healthcare subsidies as a way to make up for $15.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments.
"Nobody should misunderstand that children's health insurance dollars should somehow make up for the loss of DSH," Willson said.