NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 3, 2007

Providing health insurance for poor children through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is an issue that is increasingly putting President Bush at odds with the Democratic Congress and Republican presidential candidates, says the Wall Street Journal.

At the heart of the fight is, not surprisingly, money, says the Journal:

  • Washington actually provides a more generous federal match for SCHIP than it does for Medicaid, the state-federal entitlement program for the poor.
  • The percentages vary, but a state paying a 50-50 share under Medicaid might only pay 35 percent under SCHIP.

Further inflaming the spending issue is that enrollment estimates fluctuate widely, depending on how the numbers are counted:

  • If SCHIP enrollment is measured for a fixed month -- from year to year -- the number is close to 4 million.
  • But if all participants are counted, including everyone who goes in and out of the program in the course of a year, the cumulative total in 2005 was 6.1 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Another reality is that covering children has become ever more attractive politically as the number of uninsured Americans rises, says the Journal:

  • Major business lobbies have joined coalitions with labor groups this year to run ads supporting more funding for SCHIP.
  • Virtually every Democratic health plan offered in Congress begins with some expansion of the program and even Republican candidates are pushing for more funds.

Just as the president's budget appears to underfund SCHIP, Democrats are accused of overreaching in wanting to add as much as $50 billion to the program over the next five years, says Rogers.

Source: David Rogers, "Republicans Hit Health-Care Rift," Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2007.

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