Washington Health Policy Week in Review
Kennedy, Hatch Release SCHIP Principles

By CQ Staff

June 6, 2007 -- Two key creators of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Wednesday released their goals for reauthorization of the program, which expires Sept. 30.

Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement that they support an increase in the federal tobacco tax as a funding source for SCHIP, and say that children must be its primary focus. They also propose greater funding for outreach activities to enroll six million of the nine million American children who are currently uninsured but eligible for health care coverage either through SCHIP or the Medicaid program.

Kennedy and Hatch urged that the SCHIP enrollment and renewal process be simplified, and that the program adopt national standards to measure the quality of care that children receive through the program, with pending legislation (S 1226) serving as "a good starting point."

Other principles Hatch and Kennedy have agreed to include providing "incentive grants" to help reduce childhood obesity, allowing SCHIP funds to help pay for premiums for children in families with qualifying incomes that have access to employer-sponsored coverage, and giving each state the flexibility to determine the federal poverty level of children who would be covered under SCHIP.

The lawmakers also propose examining the current five-year exclusion of lawful immigrant children and giving the states the option to cover those children under SCHIP. Better targeting of funds also is needed, the senators said in a news release.

"No state should be allowed to retain federal [SCHIP] dollars while doing little to actually cover eligible children. In addition, no state should be faced with closing enrollment or dropping children from the program because of a shortfall of available federal funds."


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