SCHIP Needs to Focus on Children

Published October 3, 2007

“Schip Legislation: Not good enough” (Sept. 26) fails to address what reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program actually means.

The SCHIP proposal Congress approved last night expands the program’s original focus on low-income children so far as to make it something else entirely–a government-subsidized health care program. Under the current law, two-thirds of uninsured children are eligible for either SCHIP or Medicaid. SCHIP reauthorization should focus on reducing the number of children who are eligible for coverage but fail to get it. Suggesting that those who oppose the proposal do not care about children entirely misses the point–those who oppose the expanded version of SCHIP actually care more about poor children because they understand the current SCHIP program has failed those most in need.

In Minnesota, the Government Accountability Office reports that 87 percent of total SCHIP enrollees in 2005 were adults; 66 percent of total enrollees were adults in Wisconsin; and in Arizona, 56 percent of those enrolled in SCHIP were adults–despite the fact that the state has a 16-percent child poverty rate.

States already misuse funds allocated for SCHIP, and turning it into an even more expansive program would encourage them to inappropriately use and increase federal payments, which they have already done in Medicaid. Clearly, the current program needs reform–but that should take the shape of renewed focus on the poor children not receiving aid, rather than expansion of something fraught with misuse and misdirection.

Kate Campaigne ([email protected]) is legislative specialist for health care at The Heartland Institute.