Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Governor Patrick Urges Congress to Protect Children’s Health Insurance

Asks Congressional committee to support reauthorization of SCHIP; Success of health reform on the line

BOSTON – Tuesday, February 26, 2008—Testifying in Washington, DC, today, Governor Deval Patrick urged members of a Congressional committee to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal program that provides funding for states to provide health insurance to children who are otherwise ineligible based on family income.

Governor Patrick asked members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to rescind an August 17th directive from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that imposes new enrollment, administrative and procedural requirements that impair the Commonwealth’s Medicaid and SCHIP programs. Labeled as “guidance” by CMS, they impose significant new requirements for states like Massachusetts that cover children over 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The current regulations are slated to expire March 2009 unless Congress acts.

“A child with quality healthcare is a child with a better chance in every aspect of life,” said Governor Patrick. “Failure to reauthorize SCHIP will leave thousands of children uninsured and will greatly compromise the success of health reform in Massachusetts. I urge Congress to rescind the federal directive and continue to support a program that is keeping children and families across our nation healthy.”

SCHIP was designed in 1997 to cover uninsured children in low and moderate income families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The SCHIP program has been a crucial element to health reform in the Commonwealth. CMS agreed two years ago to permit Massachusetts to expand SCHIP to children at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. As a result, Medicaid and SCHIP enrollment has grown by 40,000 children, including 18,000 newly eligible because of the expansion from to 200 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Governor Patrick told the committee that without continued federal support and flexibility within the SCHIP program, health reform in Massachusetts and other states is in jeopardy.

Governor Patrick also urged Congress to rescind several other CMS Medicaid regulations that will shift an estimated $15 billion in costs from the federal government to states. These regulations restrict how Medicaid pays for hospital services, graduate medical education, outpatient services, school-based health services, services for individuals with disabilities, and case management services.

Though still in its early stages, health reform in Massachusetts has been successful. More than 300,000 adults and children who were uninsured one year ago are insured today.

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