Lawmakers Debate Funding Children’s Health Insurance

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The Washington Post is reporting that the decade-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which expires in September and was expected to be renewed and possibly expanded, is held up in Congress. The debate is the proper role of government in healthcare.

The $5 billion dollar program annually helps 6.6 million low-income, uninsured American children see doctors when they’re sick. Both the U.S. House and Senate are proposing deals to expand the program and increase funding over the next five years, proposals the President characterizes as attempts to enlarge the federal role of healthcare and reduce private insurance coverage for some children.

According to the article, the President:

… has proposed about $5 billion in new funding for children’s health insurance over five years, for a total of $30 billion – an amount that the Congressional Budget Office says would be too little to keep covering even just the number of children enrolled in the program now.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a U.S. national program for families who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. Started in 1997, the program was designed to address an ever-growing problem of children without health insurance.

A recent study that examined the extent to which SCHIP affects access to healthcare and service use found that enrollment improved access to care relative to being uninsured [1]. Children enrolled in SCHIP were more likely to receive office visits, preventive health and dental care, and specialty care. Additionally, they were more likely to have a usual source for medical and dental care and to report better provider communication and accessibility. SCHIP enrollees were less likely to have unmet needs, financial burdens and parental worry associated with meeting their child’s health care needs.

As an alternative to the Senate and House proposals to use tax increases to extend health insurance benefits, President Bush is suggesting tax credits. Whitehouse spokesman Tony Fratto has indicated that senior advisors will recommend the President veto any legislation that would increase funds for children’s health insurance.

Which do you think is better – a tax increase or tax credits?


  1. Kenney G. The Impacts of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program on Children Who Enroll: Findings from Ten States. Health Serv Res. 2007 Aug;42(4):1520-43.
    View abstract
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.