Menendez and Smith Challenge White House Limits to Children's Health Measure

Menendez and Smith Challenge White House Limits to Children's Health Measure

Washington - United States Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) are rapidly gaining signatures from a bi-partisan group of senators on a letter expressing strong opposition to recent requirements laid out by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to significantly limit the ability of states to provide health insurance to uninsured children. The letter, which is expected to garner strong bipartisan support, will be delivered to the White House early next month.

"Not only is the President flip-flopping on his policy, and not only is he trying to interrupt a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the SCHIP program, but the President is pushing tens of thousands of children across the country back into the ranks of the uninsured-almost 11,000 of which are from New Jersey," said Senator Menendez. "Do not be mistaken, the goal of this new rule is to take health care coverage away from the children of America's working families. Our goal as a nation should be to provide healthcare to all children and that is why I will fight to ensure that not one child loses coverage because of the President's harmful new rule."

"This new rule is running on a track headed straight for a collision with Congress," said Senator Smith. "We can't give states a new playbook with unrealistic goals intended to serve as barriers to covering more kids. In Oregon alone, this rule will jeopardize the state's plans to cover an additional 100,000 children. This policy simply is not something Congress should allow to move forward. We made a promise to America's kids and we need to do everything possible to deliver on it."

Late last week, CMS notified State Health Officials of new rules for states covering children under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The letter announced rigorous requirements for states that wish to continue covering children or states seeking to extend coverage to families with incomes above 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,625, for a family of four).

The senators note in the letter that the new restrictions, "serve only to impede a state's ability to help additional uninsured children." Two requirements were highlighted as particularly onerous, one that would mandate that a state certify children are uninsured for at least one year prior to providing health insurance coverage when a child's family income is greater than 250 percent of the poverty level ($51,625, for a family of four), and a second requiring that states demonstrate that at least 95 percent of children from families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level ($41,300) are enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid prior to expanding coverage to children with higher family incomes.

The senators urge President Bush to withdraw CMS' new requirements, or consider these new rules under the normal procedure with a notification and comment period.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved legislation to reauthorize the SCHIP program with strong bipartisan support, 68-31. The measure would provide funding for states to cover an additional 3.2 million children.