Senate Democrats

The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Bill: Myths and Facts

This week the Senate will debate a bill to provide health care coverage for four million more low-income children. Opponents of the bill are already raising objections to the bill in order to justify opposing coverage for children. Below is a list of some of their biggest myths about the bill and the facts that disprove them.


MYTH:The CHIP bill reduces documentation requirements, allowing illegal immigrants to receive benefits.  

  • FACT: Under current law, only individuals applying for Medicaid are subject to the citizenship documentation requirements.  This bill actually extends those requirements to CHIP, requiring documentation in that program as well.
  • FACT: Because the requirements have resulted in the widespread denial of coverage to many citizens, the CHIP bill also gives states a new way to prove citizenship through matching Social Security Administration (SSA) records.
  • FACT:These citizen documentation provisions are the same as it was in the CHIP bill passed by the Senate overwhelmingly in 2007.

MYTH: This bill ends the mandatory five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to receive benefits – opening the program to abuse by illegal immigrants.

  • FACT:The bill allows, but does not require, states to cover legal immigrant children without forcing them to wait five years for coverage.
  • FACT:Only immigrant children here legally are eligible for the benefits provided by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • FACT: Children and pregnant women who will now be eligible must document their immigration status.  State Medicaid agencies use the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services automated SAVE system to verify the immigration status of legal immigrants applying for Medicaid.

MYTH:This bill would allow children from families making over $80,000 per year to receive coverage, while poorer children are still not enrolled.

  • FACT:This bill would extend coverage to 4 million more low-income children and help struggling families in this time of economic downturn.
  • FACT:The CHIP bill prioritizes enrolling low-income children by establishing a performance-based system to reward states for enrolling low-income children while giving them new tools to do so.
  • FACT:Under the bill, states will be able to designate CHIP funds to help families afford private coverage offered by employers or other sources.
  • FACT: This bill maintains provisions to reduce the federal match rate for the cost of covering children above 300 percent of the federal poverty level

MYTH:The revenue stream to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a tobacco tax, is unsteady and will not be able to fund the program in the future, increasing the burden on taxpayers.

  • FACT: According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the proposed $31.5 Billion in spending will be fully paid for by the fee increase to tobacco products over the authorized five year time-frame.

 MYTH: Democrats have made unilateral changes CHIP which has jeopardized the bi-partisan support of previous versions passed by the Senate.

  • FACT:The CHIP legislation introduced this year is almost identical to the legislation in 2007 that received broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
  • FACT:Two prior bi-partisan efforts were blocked by President Bush who tried to make children’s health coverage a political issue. Providing health care for children is not a Democratic issue or Republican issue.  It is a moral issue – one that all Senators should support.
  • FACT:The few unresolved policy disagreements were put to a vote in committee.