19 April 2008

The SCHIP Saga Continues

Uninsured children may still have a chance under SCHIP, the public health insurance program that is jointly financed by federal and state governments.

According to a New York Times report today:

The Bush administration violated federal law last year when it restricted states’ ability to provide health insurance to children of middle-income families, and its new policy is therefore unenforceable, lawyers from the Government Accountability Office said Friday.

Under the Aug. 17 directive, states cannot expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover youngsters with family incomes over 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($53,000 for a family of four) unless they can prove that they already cover 95 percent of eligible children below twice the poverty level ($42,400).

Moreover, in such states, children who lose or drop private coverage must be uninsured for 12 months before they can enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and co-payments in the public program must be similar to those in private plans.

Moreover, now while the debate has been revived, the public should weigh in on the appellation SCHIP to reframe the issue in such a way that it is an undeniable children's rights issue. S-CHIP as it stands sounds like a computer or technical problem, akin to the Y2K frenzy, not an issue of utmost importance pertaining to the rights of children to medical care.

The name SCHIP gives no indication that the bill is fundamentally about protecting children by assuring that they have access to quality health care, that they have a reliable medical home, that they have a well-coordinated team of health care providers and reliable adults overseeing their medical well-being. This name does not invoke public sentiments of empathy and protection as it should. Other states - like Minnesota's Badger Care or Tennessee's TennderCare - are catchy and sticky.

Some suggestions (others welcome):
The Defense of Children's Health Act
Protecting Children's Health Act
Health Coverage for Children Act

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