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Adam Thompson on February 22, 2007 - 10:29am
President Bush wants to erase his exploded deficit on the backs of children, families and seniors. He has proposed over $100 billion in cuts from Medicaid and Medicare over the next five years, achieved by requiring low-income children and their families and seniors to pay more for benefits and through cuts in payments to hospitals and doctors. Cynically, he seeks no sacrifice from private insurance companies that carry Medicare plans.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Congressional members have proposed a $50 billion package that would reauthorize SCHIP for the next five years and cover an additional 9 million children.
Despite the uncertainty created by this large gulf separating Bush and Congress, states are pushing ahead with universal kids coverage, many of which build on SCHIP:
- The Washington State Senate passed SB 5093, a bill proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire to make sure all children have health insurance by 2010. The bill creates a seamless program of coverage for children with free or subsidized care on a sliding scale to 300% of poverty, roughly $60,000 for a family of four. Families earning more can purchase the coverage without subsidy.
- Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin has proposed a major expansion of health care that will include universal kids coverage by combining the state's Medicaid programs into one, called Badger Care Plus.
- Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's Healthy Kids Plan will provide free or subsidized health care to children living in families with incomes up to $80,000. The proposal hinges on an 84.5 cent cigarette tax increase that has raised objections from Republican legislators. Despite Democratic majorities in both houses, the tax increase requires a three-fifths vote, putting passage of the plan in jeopardy. To help move it along, US Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) has come out in favor of the proposal and the cigarette tax increase.
- Legislators in Minnesota are moving the Children's Health Security Act through the committee process. The bill would phase in universal kids coverage by 2010. Although Gov. Tim Pawlenty has not weighed in on the Children's Health Security Act, he has committed to universal kids coverage as a first step towards broader health care reform.
Other states, like California and Kansas, are moving universal kids coverage or expansions of existing programs. In addition, reforms already enacted in 2005 and 2006 in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, aim for universal kids coverage.
Each state that pursues and enacts universal kids coverage increases the pressure on Washington D.C., and particularly the Bush Administration, to stay at the table and provide the funds necessary to adequately fund SCHIP and continue the federal/state partnership that has covered millions of America's children.