Congress faces a daunting task in blending two radically different bills expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, one of which is supported by the health insurance industry and the other strongly opposed.
Indeed, one analysts’ group is predicting the current program will be extended for a short period while talks continue on a bill even more modest than the $35 billion increase in SCHIP over 5 years contained in the Senate bill.
Congress will be up against a tight deadline in dealing with the issue because the current 10-year authorization of the program expires Sept. 30. Congress doesn’t return to work until Sept. 4 and has only a few legislative days in September.
The program now receives $5 billion in funding per year.
President Bush is supporting efforts to increase SCHIP spending to an average of $6 billion per year and has threatened to veto both the House and Senate SCHIP bills.
In any event, the more-expensive House bill, which includes a phase-out in the subsidy to the Medicare Advantage program over 4 years, is being strongly panned by health insurers and producers.
For example, the National Association of Health Underwriters voiced “extreme concern” over the House bill saying that funding for SCHIP expansion under the House version “would be on the backs of older Americans.”
In a statement, NAHU CEO Janet Trautwein explained that “seniors all across the country are selecting Medicare Advantage plans in record numbers.
“It is obvious that many of these Medicare beneficiaries prefer a comprehensive approach to insuring the cost of their health care as opposed to traditional fee-for-service Medicare,” she added.
Reducing Medicare Advantage plan funding will force some plans to exit the Medicare Advantage market, “which will limit health care options and be a great disservice to our nation’s senior,” she said.
The Senate bill, Trautwein said, does a much better job of dealing with the “very real and negative effects” of crowding out existing private health insurance.
She added that the Senate SCHIP bill takes a number of steps to improve the option of premium assistance partnerships.