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Administration Blocks New York SCHIP Expansion

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New York Republicans are joining with the state’s Democrats to ask the federal government to let the Empire State include moderate-income families in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services moved Friday to reject New York’s application to expand its SCHIP program to include children in families with incomes extending up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

“New York has not demonstrated that its program operates in an effective and efficient manner with respect to the core population of targeted low-income children,” Kerry Weems, acting CMS administrator, wrote in a letter to the New York State Health Department.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, says New York has made vigorous efforts to get the lowest-income families into SCHIP.

“I find it unconscionable that the president would stand between children and one of the most basic human rights–health care,” Rangel says.

Meanwhile, at least 3 Republican House members from New York — John Kuhl Jr., Thomas Reynolds and James Walsh — are saying the Bush administration rejection of the SCHIP expansion application could hurt low-income children in New York.

A fourth New York Republican representative, Vito Fossella, already has urged federal officials to relax SCHIP expansion eligibility requirements.

The current SCHIP program authorization will expire Sept. 30.

New York applied for permission to cover moderate-income children in April.

In the past, the Bush administration has approved many state requests to expand SCHIP eligibility.

This summer, when Congress set about coming up with an SCHIP reauthorization bill, the Bush administration decided the program should limit eligibility to relatively low income families, both to save money and prevent SCHIP coverage from crowding out private children’s health coverage. The administration decided to require states to show that they had enrolled almost all eligible low-income children in SCHIP before opening the program to children in families with incomes of 200% to 400% of the federal poverty level.

The House and Senate passed separate SCHIP reauthorization bills and now are preparing to meet to iron out the differences.

SCHIP now gets about $5 billion per year and is on track to get $25 billion over the next 5 years.

The Bush administration has proposed adding $5 billion over the next 5 years, increasing the 5-year funding total to $30 billion.

The Senate wants to increase total funding by $35 billion over 5 years, to $60 billion, and the House wants to increase total funding by $50 billion, to $75 billion.

A section in the House bill could cut funding for private insurers that participate in the Medicare Advantage program.