The new federal regulations against expanding SCHIP coverage to children in lower-middle income families are to protect private insurance companies from loosing customers when they switch to SCHIP.
Medicaid changes assailed
Seattle Post Intelligencer, Sept 2, 2007
OLYMPIA — As Washington spends more money to provide health insurance for all its children by 2010, state leaders and child care advocates are blasting the Bush administration over new rules that they say would punish the state for its leadership on the issue.
Dennis Smith, the federal official who oversees state Medicaid programs, recently notified state Medicaid directors that he was setting new standards for states that wanted to increase eligibility for the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, or SCHIP, above 250 percent of the federal poverty level (which is an annual income of $51,625 for a family of four).
The new rules would:
Under legislation enacted this year, Washington would expand eligibility for children from families with annual incomes of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level in 2009.
The new federal rules could make the state responsible for providing $5 million more than it had anticipated in federal matching funds.
Last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the new federal restrictions would make it harder for Washington to fulfill its commitment to provide all children access to health coverage.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Gregoire questioned the legality of setting the rules without going through the formal rulemaking process and pointed out that Congress does not support the administration’s new policy.
“I, and the vast majority of Americans, expect our government to follow the appropriate process when establishing important new policies,” Gregoire wrote.
“We also understand the importance of SCHIP to the well-being of our children and hope that the federal government continues to be a partner, rather than a roadblock, to our children’s health.”
Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance, a state child advocacy group, said that even before the new rules, Washington state had been penalized for expanding coverage to poorer children.
When SCHIP was created, it allowed federal funding only to states that implemented new programs or expansions. Washington already had a program in place and was ineligible for most of the federal funding — in essence penalized for developing its program before most other states, he said.
Gould said Washington has already missed out on $200 million of federal participation.
“And children will continue to miss out unless Congress and President Bush reauthorize SCHIP with a fix for Washington state in September,” he said.
California and New York are among 23 other states that have expanded children’s health care coverage and stand to lose federal participation because of those policies.
Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, and Elliot Spitzer of New York, a Democrat, have also objected to the new rules.
This year, the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Washington approved $30 million for a children’s health care program that:
“It’s irresponsible to ask a child with cancer or a pregnant woman to wait one full year for health coverage, even if a parent dies or loses their job,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a national child advocacy group.
“To protect the health and well-being of our children, this directive should be put to bed and withdrawn.”
P-I reporter Chris McGann can be reached at 360-943-3990 or email@example.com.