SPRINGFIELD – Continuing his push for reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today joined governors from across the country in calling on the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to immediately reverse proposed mandates it announced last month that will fundamentally alter the authority given to states under SCHIP to craft and operate health care programs that best serve their constituents. In a bipartisan letter sent to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, Gov. Blagojevich and 29 other governors from around the nation urged CMS to reiterate its commitment to the state-federal partnership under SCHIP and join the governors in advocating the reauthorization of SCHIP this year.
“The deadline to reauthorize SCHIP is quickly approaching and children in many states are in jeopardy of losing much needed health insurance coverage,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “While Congress works toward consensus on reauthorization, the Bush Administration is setting up a process that makes it even harder for states to expand coverage to uninsured children. As governors, we are working in a bipartisan way to support an SCHIP reauthorization that continues to give states the funds and the flexibility they need to craft a program that meets each state's individual circumstances.”
Governor Blagojevich has been working tirelessly with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, as well as other Governors, to ensure that funding continues for the SCHIP program which has helped to provide healthcare for over 316,000 Illinois children since inception. Last month, the Governor sent a letter to President Bush urging him to put the well being of hundreds of thousands of Illinois children first and reconsider his threat to veto both the house-passed and senate-passed SCHIP bills.
Congress created SCHIP in 1997 as a bipartisan approach to address the growing number of children without health insurance in America. According to the Congressional Research Service, however, forty states now have expenditures greater than their federal SCHIP allotment per year, and at least fourteen states are facing federal matching shortfalls for FY 2007. That is why Gov. Blagojevich has joined other governors in pushing for more federal resources in the reauthorization process.
In addition, the current SCHIP formula, which is partially based on the number of low-income children who do not have healthcare, penalizes states like Illinois for taking action to provide healthcare to more children. Earlier this year, Gov. Blagojevich called on the Illinois Congressional Delegation and the U.S. Congress to revise the formula to be based on the total number of low-income children in the state and number of children and parents covered.
In January, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, one of the nation’s most respected independent health policy research organizations, released a report crediting Governor Blagojevich’s administration for sparking a national movement to provide healthcare to all children. Over the last year, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have followed Illinois’ lead to provide healthcare to more uninsured children, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced his proposal to do the same.
In November 2005, the Governor signed All Kids into law, making healthcare affordable for the families of every uninsured child in the state. All Kids made Illinois the first state in the nation to offer affordable, comprehensive health coverage to every uninsured child. Under Governor Blagojevich, the state has provided health coverage to more than 360,000 children.
The text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Governors are deeply troubled by new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates that limit state flexibility under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for those states that provide SCHIP eligibility for children of families with income levels at or above 250 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL). In fact one state has already been a victim of these new rules, which sets an unfortunate precedent that will negatively affect all states with existing programs or plans to expand coverage for children. Released as a measure to address the substitution of SCHIP for private insurance, the requirements amount to a unilateral restriction on state authority to provide health insurance coverage for children and undermine the foundation of the state-federal partnership upon which SCHIP was built.
The requirements articulated in the CMS letter of August 17, 2007, fundamentally alter the authority given to states under SCHIP to craft and operate health care programs that best serve their constituents. Flexibility to set coverage levels is a basic tenet of this vital and successful program and one repeatedly endorsed by this Administration when it granted permission to multiple states to expand their coverage options. The CMS clarification reverses this policy by mandating administrative requirements that could result in hundreds of thousands of children and tens of thousands of adults losing health insurance.
States stand at the forefront of policy innovation and governors are leading the way to create meaningful and sustainable coverage options for their uninsured populations. Governors have repeatedly called upon Congress and the Administration to reauthorize SCHIP before it expires in September. The CMS decision to limit coverage options for states and unilaterally alter existing state plans is contrary to our shared responsibility of working cooperatively to provide health coverage for uninsured children.
Governors call upon CMS to reiterate its commitment to the state-federal partnership under SCHIP by immediately rescinding its August 17, 2007, letter and joining governors in our efforts to reauthorize SCHIP this year.
Governor Eliot Spitzer Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State of New York State of California
Governor Christine O. Gregoire Governor Jon S. Corzine
State of Washington State of New Jersey
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm Governor Kathleen Sebelius
State of Michigan State of Kansas
Governor Ted Strickland Governor Rod R. Blagojevich
State of Ohio State of Illinois
Governor M. Jodi Rell Governor Brad Henry
State of Connecticut State of Oklahoma
Governor John Lynch Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski
State of New Hampshire State of Oregon
Governor Janet Napolitano Governor Bill Richardson
State of Arizona State of New Mexico
Governor Edward G. Rendell Governor Ruth Ann Minner
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State of Delaware
Governor Chester J. Culver Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
State of Iowa State of Louisiana
Governor James Douglas Governor Mike Beebe
State of Vermont State of Arkansas
Governor John Baldacci Governor Bill Ritter
State of Maine State of Colorado
Governor M. Michael Rounds Governor Dave Freudenthal
State of South Dakota State of Wyoming
Governor Deval Patrick Governor Martin O’Malley
Commonwealth of Massachusetts State of Maryland
Governor Donald L. Carcieri Governor Joe Manchin III
State of Rhode Island State of West Virginia
Governor Anìbal Acevedo Vilà Governor John deJongh, Jr.
Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands