Senate Democrats

Reeling from Defeat, Bush Administration Seeks to Cut Kids from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

According to reports this morning, the Bush Administration, mandated new restrictions making it more difficult for states to provide health care for low income children. The Administration will now require that states certify that children were uninsured for at least one year before providing health insurance for children from families earning more than 250 percent of the poverty level or $51,625 for a family of four. In addition, those states must also demonstrate that at least 95 percent of children from families making less than 200 percent of the poverty level have been enrolled in the children’s health insurance program or Medicaid.

The Administration’s New Directive on the Children’s Health Insurance Program Would Result in Kids Losing Insurance.  According to Families USA, “The Administrations new requirements will effectively establish a new income limit for SCHIP at 250 percent of poverty, Kathleen Stoll, Director of Health Policy for Families USA. Under current law, states can decide for themselves what the income limit for SCHIP should be. This new policy guts the ability of states to tailor their own SCHIP programs. Even worse, it eliminates health coverage for tens of thousands of children in at least 18 states and it blocks other states from enrolling additional uninsured children.”  According to the State of New Jersey, “’We are horrified at the new federal policy,’ said Ann Clemency Kohler, deputy commissioner of human services in New Jersey. ‘It will cause havoc with our program and could jeopardize coverage for thousands of children.’”   [Families USA, 8/20/08, New York Times, 8/21/08] 

The Bush Administration’s Proposal May Close the Door on States Seeking to Provide Health Care for Children in Low to Moderate Income Families. According to a letter sent to state heath officials by Dennis G. Smith, director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, states seeking to enroll a child whose family earns more than 250 percent of the poverty level, or $51,625 for a family of four, must first ensure that the child is uninsured for at least one year. States must also demonstrate that at least 95 percent of children from families making less than 200 percent of the poverty level have been enrolled in the children’s health insurance program or Medicaid. “No state can meet 95 percent. No state currently meets 95 percent,” said Senator Max Baucus. [Washington Post, 8/21/07; New York Times, 8/21/07]

According to a Leading Expert, The Bush Administration’s Proposal Would Hinder the Ability of States to Provide Coverage for Low to Moderate Income Children. According to Cindy Mann, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, the Bush Administration “would effectively foreclose the opportunity for states to cover children in families with incomes of about $40,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the size of family.” [Washington Post, 8/21/07; New York Times, 8/21/07]

The Administration’s Action is an End-Run Around Congress. Both the House and Senate’s bills reject the Administration’s proposals to cap kids’ eligibility and limit state flexibility.  [H.R. 976 as passed by Senate; H.R. 3162 as passed by the House of Representatives]

The Bush Administration Flip-Flopped on its Position From Only Six Months Ago. The new requirements are considerably stricter than past requirements. For example, in February the Bush Administration allowed Pennsylvania to increase its income limit to 300 percent of the poverty level after the state agreed to a six-month waiting period for children who were 2 and older with family incomes exceeding 200 percent of the poverty level. [New York Times, 8/21/07]

The Bush Administration threatened to veto the bi-partisan childen’s health insurance reauthorization:

The Bi-Partisan Senate Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Would Cover Millions of At-Risk Children. The bi-partisan Senate bill provides for a five-year reauthorization for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, paid for with a modest increase in the tobacco tax. The bill would not only cover the 6.6 million children already receiving their health care coverage through the program, it would also cover an additional 3.2 million kids. [Senate Committee On Finance: Summary of Chairman’s Mark] 

President Bush Falsely States the Bi-Partisan Senate Bill is the First Step to Government Run Health Care, Threatens to Veto the Bill. President Bush has promised to veto the legislation, saying it would be too expensive and would constitute a first step toward government-funded universal health coverage. However, the measure does no such thing. The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a public-private partnership that focuses on providing low-income children with health care coverage. The Senate measure in fact encourages public and private solutions to cover children. [Miami Herald, 8/3/07; Senate Committee On Finance: Summary of Chairman’s Mark]

An overwhelmng majority of Americans support increasing tobacco taxes to fund children’s health care:

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Increasing Taxes on Tobacco to Fund Children’s Health Care. According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Americans support a tobacco tax increase to fund children’s health care and most want to vote for a candidate who does as well. [American Medical Association Press Release, 6/19/07]

Bush’s Own President’s Cancer Panel Called for Increasing Tobacco Taxes.  According to a recent report by the President’s Cancer Panel, tobacco taxes, used to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program under bipartisan legislation, should be increased to discourage smoking. “The Federal tobacco excise tax, currently 39 cents per pack of cigarettes, has not been increased in nearly a decade. Increasing this tax would not only contribute to reducing smoking initiation and prevalence, but potentially would be an important source of revenue for federally-funded tobacco use prevention and control efforts.” [President’s Cancer Panel 2006-2007 Cancer Report]