Iowa Expands SCHIP Program

Published August 1, 2009

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) has signed legislation to extend eligibility for the Hawkeye State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program to children in families with incomes of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

The new law, Senate File 389, passed the state House by a 95-0 vote at the end of April and was approved by the Senate by a 39-9 vote in May.

‘More Socialized Medicine’

“[SF 389] is important because it will mean health care coverage for virtually all children in the state,” said state Sen. Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines), the law’s chief proponent, in a statement.

Advocates say the law will extend coverage to 53,000 uninsured children at a cost of $7.5 million. Funding is not addressed in SF 389 itself, but is to be dealt with in a separate spending measure.

Don Racheter, Ph.D., president of the Iowa-based Public Interest Institute, disagreed with the law’s advocates, calling SF 389 “yet more socialized medicine.”

“It’s ‘for the children’,” Racheter said, “but what it is, is actually government child abuse. It’s boiling the frog by starting with cool water and bit by bit turning up the heat.”

HSAs Deserve Support

Racheter added, “Instead of SCHIP expansion, the legislature should try universal health savings accounts, including provisions for all government employees, retirees, military, etc. to convert their health care policies into consumer-driven plans. If the state still wants to chip in, it should simply put money into accounts for the truly low income who cannot afford them on their own.

“Considering the cost of the program—which is certain to be far more than the $7.5 million SF 389’s advocates claim—it’s certainly not a good time for the state to be spending the additional money,” said Racheter. “Right now, our budget is in the tank.”

The law also includes a provision requiring the Iowa Department of Revenue to create income tax forms on which filers can indicate whether each child for whom they claim an exemption is covered by health insurance.

If the filer indicates a child does not have insurance, and the filer has an income no greater than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, the Department of Revenue must notify the filer he or she may be eligible for subsidized health insurance. The filer then has 90 days to apply for assistance.

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.

For more information …

Iowa Senate File 389: