HHS today came out with a new, lower estimate on how many children are eligible to enroll in the State Childrens Health Insurance Program.
The study, which was conducted by the Urban Institutes Income & Benefits Policy Center, reaffirms President Bushs proposal to target an appropriate amount of funding for SCHIPs original target audience, which is low-income children at or below 200% of the poverty federal poverty level, HHS said in a summary of the findings. Expanding SCHIP to higher-income children is unnecessary, and would force other children out of private insurance to public assistance, the study argued.
The analysis shows that 689,000 uninsured children are in low-income families that fall below 200% of the federal poverty level and are not currently enrolled in SCHIP. (In 2007, the federal poverty level for a family of four is $20,650.) That number would rise to 794,000 if all children eligible under the different state qualifications and uninsured for at least a year were included, the study said.
This estimate is far lower than previous estimates made by congressional Democrats and other interest groups, demonstrating that adding $50 billion in additional funding is unnecessary, HHS concluded. Both the House and Senate approved budget blueprints earmarking $50 billion above its baseline over the next five years. Proponents of this language claim this money would cover the 6 million currently enrolled in the program, plus an additional 6 million children that are eligible but not enrolled, over a 10-year period.
In a rebuttal, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said the HHS report flies in the face of all accepted data on the number of uninsured American children who desperately need and could receive health coverage through a renewal of the CHIP program.
This new lowball figure for eligible children does nothing to change the Congressional Budget Office finding that the Bush administrations budget proposal for SCHIP would not only fail to reach additional children, but would result in 1.4 million kids losing their SCHIP coverage, Baucus said.
SCHIP is up for reauthorization in the fall, and the Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark up a reauthorization bill sometime this month. Baucus said the panel will craft a robust renewal of the Childrens Health Insurance Program based on the actual facts. -- by Jennifer Lubell