The State Childrens Health Insurance Program has significantly reduced the number of low-income children who are uninsured, but it has also resulted in some families who have access to private coverage instead opting for SCHIP, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.
The study, which was requested by the Senate Finance Committee, found that the uninsurance rate for children living in families at 100% to 200% of the federal poverty level fell 25% from 22.5% in 1996, the year before SCHIP was enacted, to 16.9% in 2005. However, the study also found that for every 100 children who enroll in SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.
Expanding the program to children in higher-income families generated more of an offsetting reduction in private coverageand therefore less of a net reduction in uninsurancethan expanding the program to more children in low-income families, the study found.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) thought the results showed little evidence of private insurers being crowded out, noting that most SCHIP programs are modeled after private insurance and use private plans to deliver benefits.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) the committees ranking member, seemed more concerned. This report tells us that Congress needs to make sure that whatever it does, it should actually result in more kids having health insurance, rather than simply shifting children from private to public health insurance, he said.
The program is up for reauthorization this year. Baucus aides in a teleconference with reporters said the chairman would be considering legislation after the Memorial Day recess, but that it was too early to gage the studys effects on the reauthorization process. -- by Jennifer Lubell