Congress and the President have very differing views right now on how to provide health insurance to our nations most vulnerable children, those living in poverty. So, with the threat of a veto hanging over the proceedings, negotiations are continuing on Capitol Hill as Senate and House leadership decide on the future of SCHIP. The clock is ticking as September 30th looms on the horizon. Come September 30th the current federal funding for SCHIP will stop and our state will be faced with cutting much needed services.
There have been several updates regarding SCHIP over the past few days. Starting locally, Governor Michael Easley has sent a letter to our Congressional delegation asking them to support reauthorization of SCHIP by September 30th. The Arc of North Carolina has signed on to a similar letter, and an alert will be issued tomorrow for you the reader to take action.
SCHIP currently covers 6 million children, and the Senate and House would like to see that number increased to 10 million. The Bush Administration is not being as generous as that. In fact, the administration would like to see the scope of SCHIP limited and the growth in states severely reduced. Here are the rules that the Bush Administration has proposed;
*States musts demonstrate that they have enrolled at least 95% of children in families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) who are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP before expanding eligibility to children in families with income greater than 250% of the federal poverty level
*States seeking to expand SCHIP eligibility must also establish a minimum of a one-year period of uninsurance for individuals in families with incomes greater than 250% of the federal poverty level. This rule is to stop individuals from switching from a private plan to a public program.
*Assure that the number of children insured through a private insurer has not decreased by more than 2% over the last five years. The problem here is that more employers are dropping health insurance.
As this debate continues, North Carolina’s expansion legislation hangs in the balance. During this past legislative session our General Assembly passed NC Kid’s Health Care which would cover children at 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. The proposed rules would mean that our state would not be able to increase coverage above the 250% FPL cap. Children living in poverty and children with disabilities would be unable to afford health insurance, and children currently insured by our state program would find themsevles with no affordable health insurance.Our most vulnerable would still be at risk.
Our state legislators acted in the best interest of our state’s children now our Congressional leaders must do the same.
Letter from Governor Easley to Congress:http://www.governor.state.nc.us/News_FullStory.asp
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(Thanks to Adam Searing for the link to Governor Easley's letter)