Chipping Away at the Number of Uninsured

Expanding Children’s Health Insurance

The Senate Finance committee will hold an executive session today to consider the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2007. President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation, which would finance a $35 billion increase in funding to the program over the next five years. In the Senate version, an increase on the tobacco tax from $0.39 to $1 per pack of cigarettes would finance the expansion.

The program, implemented in 1997, now covers 4 million uninsured children. Yet 9 million children still have no health insurance, and 6 million of those qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP. The number of uninsured children will likely increase unless SCHIP reauthorization passes with increased federal funding.

The proposal before the Senate committee would cover up to 3.3 million more children with a better formula for funding to the states. But the bill does not achieve the goal of the budget resolution: to cover most eligible but uninsured children. It instead helps fund children’s coverage by causing hundreds of thousands of low-income adults to lose coverage, while letting HMOs keep gross overpayments from the government. Moreover, the plan does not fill in important gaps in current coverage such as dental benefits and coverage for legal immigrant children.

Most states currently provide coverage to children living in families with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level, while some restrict eligibility to children living in somewhat poorer families. If the president has his way and limits the program’s increase to $5 billion over the next five years, up to 36 states could face budget shortfalls in their programs by 2012.

Our maps show the state-by-state expansion in the program from 1998, the first year in which SCHIP was implemented, to 2006, the last year for which data are available, and which states will face shortfalls in their programs in the next five years, causing them to cut corners on covering children.

Read more about SCHIP: