NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Searching for Uninsured Children

May 11, 1999

With much fanfare, Congress passed the Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997 -- allocating billions of dollars to the states to provide health insurance to uninsured children. Now the states are finding it difficult to locate children in need of the benefit and are failing to spend the money. In effect, Congress provided the solution, leaving it to the states to find the problem.

  • States are using less than 20 percent of the money Congress allocated them.
  • Congress came up with $39 billion to fund the program for 10 years -- including $4.2 billion a year for both 1998 and 1999.
  • But states had only used $260 million through December 1998 and $115 million in the first three months of this year.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimates that states will use $800 million this year.

Although state officials estimate that one million youngsters have been enrolled in the insurance program, there has been a decrease in those covered under Medicaid. By law, children covered under Medicaid are not eligible for the insurance benefit. This leaves health policy analysts unsure whether there has actually been an increase in children covered.

Money earmarked for a particular year remains available in the two subsequent years. But federal officials say some states are building up huge reserves because they would not come close to spending the allotments of federal money in the early years of the program.

Although the states' governors enjoy all that money coming in, congressional Republicans are thinking of taking some of it back and using it on other programs.

Source: Robert Pear, "Many States Slow to Use Children's Insurance Fund," New York Times, May 9, 1990.


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