AUFC asks Will Sununu Stand Up for the Thousands of NH Children Without Health Insurance?

Manchester, NH – As a major debate takes place in the U.S. Senate this week over thefuture of Children’s healthcare, Americans United for Change imploredU.S. Senator John Sununu to stand up for the children of New Hampshire and votein favor of The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)Reauthorization Act – meaningful legislation to strengthen the popularprogram by $35 billion over 5 years. By combiningthe best of public and private health coverage, the bipartisan plan to renewthe Children’s Health Insurance Program will ensure all 6.6 millionCHIP-covered kids keep their health insurance and will reach 3.2 million moreuninsured children in America’sworking families. With morethan 9 million children in the U.S. and the over 19 thousand children in NewHampshire without any heath insurance – will Senator Sununu do the rightthing and stand up to President Bush? New Hampshire State RepresentativesMike Brunelle and Jesse Martineau explained what’s at stake for New Hampshire families at the Alpha-Bits Daycare in Manchester today.

“SenatorSununu has a very important choice to make: either stand with President Bushwho has threatened to veto this legislation to improve health coverage forchildren in New Hampshire and throughout the country -- or stand with thefamilies of the 19,000 kids in New Hampshire who have no healthinsurance,” said MichaelBrunelle, a State Representative who represents Wards 10, 11, and 12 ofManchester. “Will he stand with Bush -- or the thousands ofNew Hampshirekids that stand to be covered if the bipartisan bill in the Senate becomes lawand the families who pray each night that their children don’t get sickor hurt?”

“Wehave a moral obligation to make sure that children in need have the opportunityto receive the care they deserve – and Senator Sununu has a duty to puthis constituents above right wing political ideology and President Bush,”said Jesse Martineau, a StateRepresentative who represents the 16th District of Manchester. “ Inthe richest nation in the world, to neglect the most basic health care needs ofour most vulnerable citizens is shameful and immoral. We are heretoday to urge John Sununu to stand with the families of New Hampshire – families which far toooften have watched instead a Senator who puts his loyalty to President Bushahead of our families and interests here at home.”

“Therewill no doubt be alternative plans offered in the senate – but it must bemade very clear: a vote for any plan other than the current one is a vote toshortchange our kids and a vote to strip health insurance from thousands of NewHampshire kids who would be otherwise covered under the Senate plan,”warned Brunelle. “On virtually every issue ranging from the war in Iraq to expanding embryonic stem cell research,John Sununu stands with President Bush over the best interests and clear wishesof the people of New Hampshire. The vote this week in Senate to expand the Children’s Health InsuranceProgram provides Senator Sununu a golden opportunity to put the children of New Hampshire firstahead of blind loyalty to the President. The health of our kids is farmore important than the big insurance companies’ bottom line thatPresident Bush is looking out for – and we hope Senator Sununu agrees. We’ll be watching.”

For more details on the Children’s Health InsuranceProgram (CHIP) Reauthorization Act see below summary from U.S. Senate FinanceCommittee or click here for the Committee’s FrequentlyAsked Questions.


SOURCE: U.S.Senate Finance Committee

TheChildren’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act

Summaryof the Chairman’s Mark

The CHIP Reauthorization Act reauthorizes the popularChildren’s Health Insurance Program, investing an additional $35 billionover five years to strengthen CHIP’s financing, to increase outreach andenrollment for low-income children of the working poor, to enhance premiumassistance options for low-income families and to improve the quality of healthcare that children receive from public programs like Medicaid and CHIP. The Actaccomplishes the following priorities:

o Loweringthe rate of uninsured low-income children The CHIP Reauthorization Act provides for coverage for6.6 million children currently enrolled in CHIP. Under the Children’sHealth Insurance Reauthorization Act, 3.2 million children who are uninsuredtoday will gain new coverage. Over the next five years, this bill will reducethe number of uninsured children in America by more than one third.

o StrengtheningCHIP by increasing and targeting funding . In recent years, many states have faced fundingshortfalls, jeopardizing the stability of the program. CBO predicts that800,000 children currently covered by CHIP will become uninsured over the nextfive years without additional funds above baseline. The CHIP ReauthorizationAct improves the financing rules to ensure resources are better directed tocover eligible children by basing state funding on state spending projections.States will also have access to a contingency fund to cover unforeseenshortfalls arising from economic downturns or emergencies.

o Providingstates with incentives to lower the rate of uninsured low income children. Today, 6 of the 9 million Americanchildren who are uninsured are eligible for either Medicaid or CHIP, but notenrolled. The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Actprovides incentives for states to lower the rate of uninsured children byenrolling eligible children in CHIP and Medicaid.

o Improvingstate tools for outreach and enrollment. The bill would provide $100 million in new grants tofund outreach and enrollment efforts that increase participation of eligiblechildren in both Medicaid and CHIP. Outreach will range from national effortsto raise awareness of CHIP, to efforts targeting children in rural areas withhigh populations of eligible but unenrolled children and higher incidence ofracial and ethnic disparities of coverage, to targeted efforts to find andenroll eligible Native American children. The bill also creates a $49 milliondemonstration allowing up to 10 states to implement “express lane”enrollment for low-income children already eligible for benefits.

o Improvingthe quality of health care for low-income children. The CHIP Reauthorization Act establishesa new framework for improving the quality of health care for children, creatinga quality initiative within the Department of HHS charged with developing andimplementing quality measures and improving state reporting of quality data.

o Reducingracial and ethnic disparities in coverage and quality. The CHIP Reauthorization Act includesinitiatives that will reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities, byimproving outreach to minority populations including Native Americans, andproviding new funding for state translation and interpretation services inCHIP.

o Prioritizingchildren’s coverage in CHIP . In the past decade, CHIP has been expanded to includesome childless adults, parents, and pregnant women. The bill eliminateschildless adult coverage within two years, eliminates future state waivers forparents, and lowers the federal reimbursement for existing parent populations.This will encourage states to direct limited CHIP resources to targetedlow-income children. States have an additional option to cover pregnant womenas a state option as well as maintaining the options to cover them through astate waiver or through regulation.

o Improvingaccess to critical benefits . The Children’s Health Insurance ProgramReauthorization Act improves access to mental health services by requiringstates that offer mental health services to provide coverage for those serviceson par with medical and surgical benefits covered under CHIP. The bill alsoprovides $200 million in new grants for states to improve accessibility andstrengthen dental coverage for children.

o Reducingadministrative barriers . This bill creates a new option for states to choose in implementingcitizenship documentation requirements and extends to CHIP the requirement toestablish citizenship. The bill also encourages states to standardizeenrollment procedures, and to eliminate requirements for face-to-faceinterviews to complete enrollment in public health programs by requiring statesto detail efforts to lower administrative barriers to enrollment.

o Improvingaccess to private coverage options through new premium assistance rules . The bill expands on current premiumassistance options for states. The bill allows states to offer a premiumassistance subsidy for qualified, cost-effective employer-sponsored coverage toall targeted low-income children who are eligible for child health assistanceand who have access to such coverage, and also changes the federal rulesgoverning employer-sponsored insurance to make it easier for states to offerpremium assistance programs.

o Maintainingstate flexibility. TheMark also retains state flexibility to set eligibility levels based on the costof living in each state, but it responds to concerns about eligibility beingtoo close to middle-class levels by lowering federal matching rates forchildren covered above 300 percent of the Federal poverty level.

Consistent with the 1997 law that created CHIP, theChildren’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act is paid for withnew revenue from a $.61 per-pack increase in the excise tax on cigarettes and acorresponding proportional increase on all tobacco products.