Congress can expand SCHIP coverage without more funds

While policymakers in Washington bicker about expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), they overlook simple, non-controversial changes that could benefit thousands of uninsured children today.

SCHIP is a critical part of the nation’s healthcare safety net, and expanding it will certainly allow more of the nation’s 9 million uninsured children to be covered. But by making a few minor changes to the current program, Congress can provide coverage to millions of additional kids at SCHIP’s current size. Here’s how.

By identifying SCHIP enrollees who have existing medical coverage, state SCHIP agencies can recover costs from private insurers. A recent analysis in two states that screen SCHIP applicants for commercial coverage found that many enrollees — up to 7 percent — have existing coverage through a private health insurance policy. If this type of screening occurred nationwide, identifying just 4 percent of all SCHIP beneficiaries with private health insurance would save the program more than $1 billion over five years.

Unfortunately, most SCHIP programs do not have the authority to recover costs from private insurance carriers. Congress should give states this authority. State Medicaid agencies already have it, and they recover billions of dollars from insurance companies every year. By giving the same authority to SCHIP programs, states can achieve savings that may be used to provide coverage for additional children.

Congress should also allow states to recover accident costs from casualty insurers. SCHIP agencies spend millions of dollars every year in medical costs resulting from accidents.

Frequently, an insurance company is legally responsible for these costs, and states should be allowed to recover these costs as well.

Despite the contentious debate, everyone agrees that SCHIP should cover the greatest possible number of low-income children. With little controversy, these uncomplicated fixes could help safeguard SCHIP funding for those who need it most.

New York


Questioning the ‘right’ to earmarks

In his Dec. 13 article, “Dems cave on spending,” reporter Alexander Bolton had a statement from Harry Reid about his “right” to earmarks:

“At a Tuesday press conference, Reid declined to endorse the proposal to cut all earmarks and defended his right to steer funds to his home state.”

What gives these politicians a “right” to earmarks? Would an article or editorial on the history of earmarks and the ethical issues surrounding them be appropriate?

Huntsville, Ala.