The CMS said it would not immediately take action against more than a dozen states that have extended enrollment under a federal childrens healthcare program to families with incomes above 250% of the federal poverty level.
At this time, we are not taking compliance action, according to a CMS statement. Moreover, we will continue to assist the states in developing policies that will ensure that the most vulnerable, low-income children are covered first, without moving them from private to public coverage.
At issue are 15 states that expanded their State Childrens Health Insurance Program to bring in children from families who would not typically qualifyfamilies at 200% of the poverty level, or about $42,400 for a family of four. Last year, in a move that angered many state governors and Democratic lawmakers, White House officials said that states would have to first cover 95% of eligible children under SCHIP or Medicaid before they could cover those from families with higher incomes.
In a letter sent to the CMS this week, California healthcare officials told the agency that they are legally obligated to follow a state law that allowed for the expanded SCHIP enrollment, adding that they do not consider the federal directive to be legally binding. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office said that the CMS overstepped its authority when it tightened enrollment requirements for the program. Maybe CMS is beginning to get it, said Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus. This statement seems to show that CMS is finally making the connection between its misguided CHIP directive and the real kids it could hurt. -- by Matthew DoBias