Congressional leaders are objecting to a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reject an Ohio children’s health coverage proposal.

Ohio wants to expand its State Children’s Health Insurance Program to include more children from moderate-income families.

CMS officials turned down the Ohio application in December 2007, contending that states should use only state funds if they want to use SCHIP to cover children at levels higher than 250% of the federal poverty level, or about $43,000 per year.

Several Democrats have written a letter to Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent of the CMS, to attack the decision.

The signers of the letter are Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. John Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Finance health care subcommittee; Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee; and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The signers of the letter contend that the CMS lacks the statutory authority to impose the kinds of restrictions it has been imposing on states that want to expand SCHIP plans to cover moderate-income children.

CMS officials say the families of the children could buy private coverage, but the signers of the congressional letter say private coverage may not be affordable or may not offer benefits comparable to SCHIP benefits.