House Bill Would Require States to Report SCHIP Expansion Efforts

Published September 1, 2008

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to require states to submit annual reports on their enrollment and outreach efforts for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

“My bill begins to gather data on the success of SCHIP nationally in accomplishing its goal,” Boustany said in a press release just after introducing the legislation. “Knowing the program is working is the first step to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent in a responsible way.”

Boustany’s proposal has met with criticism from policy analysts who say it’s just another attempt to foist an unwanted government program on people who have already repeatedly declined the opportunity to enroll.

Pushing Unwanted Program

Boustany’s HR 6506, the Improving Children’s Doctor Access Act of 2008, would require states to report to the federal government each year the number of children who used SCHIP coverage to see a primary care physician, and the state’s efforts to expand program enrollment.

But people choose not to sign up for various reasons, said Twila Brase, president of the Minnesota-based Citizens’ Council on Health Care, including the burden of applying, the stigma associated with taking a government handout, and the requirement of sharing very personal data with the government.

“The person who doesn’t sign up for a government program has a right not to,” said Brase. “If the government wants more people insured, they need to target the reasons people aren’t signing up.”

States have become more aggressive over the past year in their attempts to increase SCHIP enrollment and expand the programs to make more people eligible. In Maryland, for example, health officials are working with the state comptroller to use state income tax records to locate families whose incomes qualify their children for enrollment. The heads of eligible households will be notified by letter that SCHIP coverage is available to their children. (See “Maryland Law Targets Uninsured to Fill Government Insurance Rolls,” Health Care News, July 2008.)

In Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) attempt to expand the state’s SCHIP program was denied by the legislature and the judiciary, with the prerequisite for future expansion being fuller enrollment by those already eligible for the current program. Blagojevich responded in July by offering $50 gas cards, paid for with SCHIP funds, to families who would enroll their children.

A spokesperson for Boustany said while the bill currently does not have any cosponsors, the legislator expects a “pretty bipartisan group” of lawmakers and Congressional leaders to support it.

Katie Flanigan ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.

For more information …

“Maryland Law Targets Uninsured to Fill Government Insurance Rolls,” Health Care News, July 1, 2008: