Governors Press Bush for More Children’s Health Money

Published May 1, 2007

Democrat and Republican governors alike want President George W. Bush to provide $745 million in additional funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

SCHIP was created in 1997 to be a partnership between the federal government and state governments to provide health insurance to six million uninsured working families. The vast majority of recipients are children.

Programs Expanding

Several states have used the SCHIP funding to promote universal health coverage, voluntarily expanding the program to cover more children and more parents.

Bush met with governors February 25. In a February 26 Associated Press article, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Bush wants SCHIP to remain focused on poor children instead of adults and all children.

“You end up paying for this in other ways–uncompensated care, emergency rooms,” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) told the AP.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) agreed, adding, “[I]t’s a matter of doing the right thing. It’s nonpartisan. It’s bipartisan.”

Always Wanting More

Health policy expert Michael Cannon is not surprised by the request for additional tax dollars.

“When have the governors ever not asked for more money from Congress?” said Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute. “What governor wouldn’t want to say to his constituents, ‘I brought more money into the state without raising your taxes’? Of course, taxes will be higher. It’ll just be Congress that raises them, not the governors.”

Money Misdirected

Cannon believes SCHIP is a financially unsustainable program. SCHIP funding is often misdirected to families that are already privately insured, he noted.

“In a recent study, Jonathan Gruber of MIT confirmed that six out of every 10 people covered by SCHIP expansions already had private coverage,” Cannon noted. “In other words, SCHIP [insured] four children for the price of 10.”

Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner said it is little wonder why states like New Jersey are running out of money.

“New Jersey covers kids up to 350 percent of poverty, which means taxpayers are subsidizing health care for children whose parents make more than $72,000 a year,” Turner said.

Dane G. Wendell ([email protected]) is a legislative specialist focusing on issues of children, welfare, and poverty at The Heartland Institute.