CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today joined governors from across the nation in calling on the U.S. Congress to act immediately to address the expected funding shortfall for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Gov. Blagojevich and 12 other governors from around the nation urged Congressional leaders to move quickly to cover the current SCHIP shortfalls and revise outdated funding formulas that punish states like Illinois that have worked aggressively to expand access to healthcare to more citizens. Last month, Governor Blagojevich sent a letter to Illinois’ Congressional Delegation urging them to reauthorize SCHIP and work to bring more SCHIP funding to Illinois.
“SCHIP was created to help states meet the healthcare needs of children in families that are living just above poverty, and still struggling to get by. In Illinois, we’ve been extremely successful in using our SCHIP funds to help more than 290,000 children and their working parents get access to healthcare – that’s 290,000 people who can now go see a doctor before a sickness turns into an expensive and dangerous medical emergency,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “It is time for the U.S. Congress to keep up their end of the bargain to working families across the country. Congress must act now to fully fund SCHIP and to revise the funding formulas to support states like Illinois that are working hard to help every family get the care they need.”
The letter to all four Congressional leaders was co-signed by: Gov. Blagojevich (IL), Gov. Palin (AK), Gov. Baldacci (ME), Gov. Patrick (MA), Gov. Barbour (MS), Gov. Carcieri (RI), Gov. Doyle (WI), Gov. Perdue (GA), Gov. Culver (IA), Gov. O’Malley (MD), Gov. Pawlenty (MN), Gov. Heineman (NE), and Gov. Rounds (SD).
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.
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. Last month, 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.
Shortly after taking office in 2003, the Gov. Blagojevich increased the income threshold for children in KidCare from 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to 200 percent, and 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 313,000 children who didn’t have it before.
Gov. Blagojevich also worked to further expand FamilyCare by increasing the eligibility level for benefits on three occasions, from 133 percent of the FPL (annual household income of $25,740 for a family of four) to 185 percent of the FPL (an annual household income of $35,796 for a family of four). Under Governor Blagojevich, more than 560,000 Illinoisans now have healthcare who did not before.
The Governor’s All Kids program makes comprehensive health insurance available to all uninsured children, and All Kids covers immunizations, doctor visits, and many other healthcare services such as hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, as well as medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers. Parents pay monthly premiums and co-payments for a variety of services.
Studies have shown that children with health coverage are more likely to get preventative care, stay healthy and succeed in school. Families can apply for the program by calling 1-866-ALL-KIDS to receive an application form by mail or by visiting www.allkids.com
Following is the text of the letter sent today by the thirteen governors:
We are writing today to request your assistance in addressing the looming Fiscal Year 2007 federal funding shortfall for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Unless Congress acts expeditiously, health insurance for some of our States’ most vulnerable citizens is in jeopardy.
As you know, Congress created SCHIP in 1997 as a bipartisan approach to address the growing number of children without health insurance in America. The stated goal of the program was to provide insurance to five million low-income children within ten years. With more than 6.1 million children receiving benefits, SCHIP has met that goal and is widely considered a national success.
Despite this success, SCHIP is governed by a flawed and counterproductive distribution formula that penalizes the states successfully implementing the mission of the program. According to the Congressional Research Service, 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. Without quick Congressional action, our states, all facing federal shortfalls, will be forced to make harsh decisions affecting the lives of thousands of families.
With states facing federal matching shortfalls as early as March, SCHIP funding has reached critical status in many of our states. We request that Congress move to cover current year shortfalls at the earliest possible opportunity. Our states stand ready to be partners in this program and meet the state portions of the funding, but the clock is ticking. We need Congressional assistance quickly to strengthen and preserve this successful program.