GOVERNOR BLASTS BUSH ADMINISTRATION SCHIP CHANGES
Says White House Rolling Back States' Progress on Kids' Health Insurance
Governor Janet Napolitano has signed a letter blasting new Bush administration guidelines that make it nearly impossible for states to expand the number of children eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Joining a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 30 governors, Governor Napolitano called upon Bush administration officials to "immediately rescind" the recent policy changes that limit states' ability to cover kids.
The new guidelines, issued August 17 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), would prohibit states from extending eligibility for SCHIP to children in families that earn more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, unless the state demonstrated that 95 percent of children below that level had been covered by SCHIP or Medicaid. As no state comes close to that 95 percent coverage level, despite many efforts to enroll all eligible children, the new regulations are in effect a federal mandate to keep states from expanding the number of children who could benefit from the program.
"This change only rolls back important progress on the part of states in making sure that our children have health insurance," Governor Napolitano said, pointing out that many states already use SCHIP to cover children whom the White House would now prohibit from the program. "For years, the Bush administration has encouraged states to expand their coverage options, but now they've changed their minds and have left the states high and dry.
"The bottom line is that new regulation will keep children from getting the health care they need," Governor Napolitano said. "The White House shouldn't be playing games with the health of our kids."
In their letter, the governors expressed their concern that the White House previously supported states that expanded eligibility, only to change the rules later. "Flexibility to set coverage levels is a basic tenet of this vital and successful program and one repeatedly endorsed by this Administration when it granted permission to multiple states to expand their coverage options," the governors wrote, emphasizing that the recent changes "could result in hundreds of thousands of children and tens of thousands of adults losing health insurance."
The governors also called on the Bush administration to join efforts to reauthorize SCHIP, which is set to expire this month without congressional action. The Bush administration in recent months has proposed cuts to SCHIP and rebuffed attempts by Congress to reauthorize the program.