The SCHIP Showdown Today…

HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CONGRESSIONAL VOTE TODAY TO DECIDE DIRECTION OF CHILDREN’S COVERAGE
* State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expires in five days
* President Bush has vowed to veto legislation to extend the program
* California’s Healthy Families may have to disenroll hundreds of thousands of children
* Compromise $35 billion bill would cover one-half of remaining uninsured children
* ACTION ITEM: Contact your member of Congress today, to support SCHIP expansion

New on the Health Access WeBlog: SCHIP Deal; New Language Access to Care Standards at the Department of Insurance; How Close to a Deal on Health Care? Special Session Gossip.

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote TODAY, Tuesday, September 25th, on the extension and expansion of the popular State Child Health Insurance Program. The vote will determine the future of the federal program, and of children’s health coverage in general.

California’s version of the program, Healthy Families, now covers 850,000 children. With extended federal funding, the program has the potential to meet its promise to cover the rest of California’s uninsured children.

Unfortunately, the big vote today could send also signal of the reverse, and force the program to consider disenrolling hundreds of thousands of Californians children.

To avoid this, CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE TODAY, and urge them to support of SCHIP expansion, and to support an override of President Bush. To call the Capitol swtichboard using a toll-free number, call: 1-800-828-0498.

THE PROMISE: COVERING ALL KIDS; THE THREAT: KICKING KIDS OFF COVERAGE

Hundreds of thousands of children enrolled in Healthy Families could be abruptly dropped from health coverage as early as mid-November, unable to see a doctor, go to the hospitals and get medical treatments they need, if Congress does not vote to continue the State Children’s Health Insurance Program today with large margins.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, spoke eloquently on the Senate Floor about the importance of extending SCHIP on Monday, pointing out that private insurance is prohibitively expensive for many Americans, “These families are uninsured because they have no choice and their children have no choice.’’ Extending the SCHIP program, he said, could give those families necessary health coverage.

BUSH’S VETO THREAT AND IMPACT: Yet President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the proposal, suggesting such an expansion would lead to a federal system of “government-run health care.” If there is no extension is granted by the start of the federal fiscal year, federal money will run out for the program by mid-November, according to independent estimates.

Mindful of the deadline, he suggested that Congress extend the program at current funding levels. Because California is using federal dollars saved from earlier years of low enrollment, an extension on current levels would not be enough to even keep the children covered who are currently enrolled, much less accept new enrollment. Such a proposal, as proposed by Rep. Barton, would force California to have to dis-enroll hundreds of thousands of children from the Healthy Families program, according to estimated commissioned by The California HealthCare Foundation. The choice for California would be cruel: either to continue to cover all the children in the program until the money runs out in summer 2007, potentially leaving all the children without coverage; or to immediately disenroll around 250,000 children in October.

VOTES FOR AN OVERRIDE? The Senate has already voted for this extension with a veto-proof 2/3 majority. In order to show President Bush that they can override his veto, the U.S. House of Representatives would need 290 votes in support of the SCHIP reauthorization bill–including all Democrats, and 57 Republicans in Congress.

California has 53 Congressional representatives that could make the difference, especially the Republican ones, who have the choice between loyalty to the President, or representation the best interest of their state and its children.

CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE TODAY. Click here for a list of California Congressional offices and contact information, including phone numbers.

BACKGROUND: SCHIP’s SUCCESS: The SCHIP program has been largely successfully since it passed 10 years ago with bipartisan support, enrolling 6.6 million children nationwide at a time when private health coverage through employers has been declining. In California, 850,000 children receive benefits from the Healthy Families Program.

STATES SEEK TO EXPAND: Coinciding with efforts to re-authorize SCHIP, many states, including California are looking to expand the number of children who are eligible for SCHIP/Healthy Families. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his January health reform proposal, suggested that families earning up to 300 percent of poverty ($61,950 for a family of four), should be able to obtain coverage through this program.

Currently, in California, families earning up to 250 percent of poverty ($51,000 for a family of four) qualify. A few other states have more more generous expansions for families earning 300 or 350 percent of poverty. New York recently sought to expand coverage to 400%, but was rejected by the Bush Administration a few weeks ago.

AN EXTENSION TO MEET THE NEED: Ironically, in the same year that health reform and reducing the number of uninsured has come into national focus, President Bush has taken a stand to do the opposite.

As SCHIP ticks toward its September 30th expiration, the president has declared he would veto legislation that would allow it to continue and expand coverage to about 4 million more children, halving the number of uninsured children. Estimates are that the bill Congress is considering now could help as many as 650,000 additional children in California.

BUSH’S PROPOSALS: Bush favors funding the program at only $5 billion more over the current level over the next five years – rather than the additional $35 billion proposed. Such a proposal would force California to create a waiting list for children wanting to get coverage, and probably disenroll some already on the program.

Additionally, Bush proposes to scale back eligibility – only allowing those who earn 200 percent of poverty ($41,300 for a family of four) or less to qualify. That would reverse gains made in 18 states, including California, who have eligibility limits higher than the 200 percent of poverty threshold. In California, that would mean 190,000 children would lose coverage. Failure to extend and expand the SCHIP program could also endanger California’s efforts to pass a health reform and provide near universal coverage this year.

ACTION ITEM: Please call your Representatives and urge them to support the compromise measure allocating an additional $35 billion for children and families over the next five years. To find your representatives, visit www.house.gov.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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