Preserving children's access to health care

February 1, 2007

When Congress passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997, advocates for children were triumphant. Uninsured children in working families that did not meet the income limits defining Medicaid eligibility would now have coverage, the opportunity of receiving continuous care at a medical home, as well as access to preventive care, immunizations, and dental care. There have been bumps along the way, of course. Outreach is not always effective or sufficient, and some eligible children-including those with special needs-are not signed up. Overall, according to the latest survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the program is in good shape. In 2006, the 50-state survey found, 17 states increased access to coverage, and no state cut income eligibility in Medicaid and SCHIP.

When Congress passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997, advocates for children were triumphant. Uninsured children in working families that did not meet the income limits defining Medicaid eligibility would now have coverage, the opportunity of receiving continuous care at a medical home, as well as access to preventive care, immunizations, and dental care. There have been bumps along the way, of course. Outreach is not always effective or sufficient, and some eligible children-including those with special needs-are not signed up. Overall, according to the latest survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the program is in good shape. In 2006, the 50-state survey found, 17 states increased access to coverage, and no state cut income eligibility in Medicaid and SCHIP.

If the 6 million children now enrolled in SCHIP are to maintain their coverage after next September 30, however, Congress must reauthorize the program. Children's advocacy organizations like the AAP, the Center for Children and Families, and the National Association of Children's Hospitals are seizing this moment to urge Congress to strengthen and extend the program. (Center for Children and Families, Too Close to Turn Back: Covering America's Children, http://ccf.georgetown.edu.) These organizations believe the key issues in reauthorization are: