The Hill is like a ghost town in August- Members are at home attending events and meetings in their districts, and staff use the time to visit family or catch up on projects. But on August 17th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a mandate which drastically changed the rules that govern the disbursement of state SCHIP funding.

Their decision is disappointing for two reasons:

1. Poor Process: Standard practice dictates that when changes to these regulations are proposed, a comment period is open for a reasonable amount of time so that concerns and suggestions may be registered. CMS did not grant interested parties this courtesy, nor did it work with Congress while the bill was being reauthorized. Instead, CMS waited until after SCHIP had passed the House, and late into the August recess, to alter the rules which direct the states in disbursement.

2. Failure by Design: In my home state of New Hampshire, children whose families earn up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level qualify for SCHIP. The new regulations stipulate that 95% of SCHIP-eligible children whose families make under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level must be enrolled before the children in the higher bracket become eligible. But despite concerted efforts, no state in the country has been able to enroll 95% of eligible children. In effect, these new rules will strip over 2,000 New Hampshire children (those whose families fall between the 250% and 300% of the Federal Poverty Level) of their access to SCHIP.
CMS's mandate has negative implications for New Hampshire's children, and the less-than-straight-forward manner in which these policy changes were crafted is a disappointment. I oppose CMS's unreasonable mandate, and urge them to let the states decide how to determine SCHIP eligibility. Keeping kids healthy and insured should be our first priority.