Thursday, November 29, 2007

Julia's Musings: What's Up with SCHIP?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about SCHIP, the state children’s health insurance program, so I thought I would give a brief update. During a recent conference call, we were informed that negotiations between Congressional leaders and the White House have bogged down. That’s a polite way of saying nothing is moving on SCHIP right now.

The first SCHIP bill passed the House and Senate and was promptly vetoed by President Bush. Congressional leadership tried for an override and failed. Then we had SCHIP 2.0, which passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. The Bush Administration stated clearly that it would veto the House compromise. This brings us to SCHIP 3.0. The problem facing Congressional leadership is that any compromise that moves SCHIP closer to President Bush’s appropriation requests will possibly lose some Democratic votes, not to mention it will mean a cut in funding for this important program.

Currently the federal budget is holding at the 2007 fiscal appropriation figures, thanks to the most recent continuing resolution. Today, I received a great graph from the National Disability Rights Network that shows the spending projected by our state for the FY 2008 federal SCHIP program. North Carolina’s projected FY 2008 federal SCHIP spending is at $194.7 million. The project federal allotment is $136.1 million. Funding remaining in the till from the prior year is $9.0 million. So, you put all these figures together and you come up with a FY 2008 shortfall of $49.5 million. That’s quite a shortfall, which means fewer children can be enrolled in the SCHIP program. As you may recall from my previous “musings,” over 1,300 children with disabilities are currently being served by our state’s SCHIP. With the current projections for funding in 2008 North Carolina would run out of money to support our state’s SCHIP by June. For a state that is continually discussing health care reform, it is critical that our Congressional leaders step forward at this crucial time and fully fund SCHIP. This is not about proving fiscal responsibility; this issue is about protecting the health of the most vulnerable and hardest to insure in our population, children with disabilities.

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