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Groups Urge Quick Action on SCHIP Funding

By CQ Staff

September 18, 2006 -- A coalition of more than 80 health care and consumer groups have asked members of Congress to take "immediate action" to help states avert projected federal funding shortfalls in fiscal 2007 for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

SCHIP was created in 1997 as part of the balanced-budget law (PL 105-33) to help states provide coverage for children in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Since its enactment, the measure has helped reduce the number of uninsured children by one-third, witnesses told the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee in July.

At that same hearing, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Mark B. McClellan said there is no need to worry about funding shortfalls in any state because there are enough surplus funds to distribute to states that need more SCHIP money.

At the end of fiscal 2006, McClellan said, there is a projected total of $4.1 billion in unexpended state allotments that will be available in fiscal 2007. In addition, $5 billion more in federal funding will become available that year, for a total of $9.1 billion.

But in the letter delivered to Capitol Hill on Monday, the groups wrote that if Congress does not take action, "SCHIP funding shortfalls could add even more children to the ranks of the uninsured." Quoting estimates from CMS, the Congressional Research Service, and other analysts, the groups write that up to 18 states face an estimated $800 million to $950 million in total funding shortfalls in 2007.

Groups signing the letter include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the March of Dimes.

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