April 20,1999

Roth: ''Thanks to 1997 Health Care Program One Million Lower-Income Children Now Have Access to a Doctor''

WASHINGTON -- "Nearly one million children now have health insurance thanks to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, a health insurance program created in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act," stated Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today in response to the numbers released by HCFA on the status of the program. The program was designed to provide health insurance to lower-income, uninsured children who did not qualify for Medicaid.

"This is wonderful news. This health insurance program we created has made a tangible difference in the lives of 982,011 children and their families. In the 18 months of its existence, the SCHIP program has gotten off to a remarkable start. Fifty-one states and territories have approved plans in place, which in and of itself is an impressive achievement given that many states chose to design new programs from scratch. But more importantly, the new program is achieving the results we intended when the bill was passed," said Roth.

Largely through the efforts of the Senate Finance Committee, states were given the option of designing new insurance programs within parameters established by Congress or expanding Medicaid, or combining these two approaches. Immediately after the bill was signed into law, the states began developing plans for the implementation of the new program, and the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) worked closely with the states to get approved plans up and running as soon as possible.

"Of the total number of children in the program, 540,000 receive health insurance through state-designed programs, and another 442,000 children are covered as a result of Medicaid expansions. I expect the total number of newly insured children will increase even further when HCFA takes into consideration children newly enrolled in Medicaid who had been eligible but had never signed up for the program.

"Today as a result of SCHIP, nearly one million children now have a doctor to visit when they develop ear infections. These children now have access to the regular check-ups and preventive health care that will help them grow and thrive. When serious problems arise, nearly one million children can now go to the hospital without exposing their hard working families to financial hardship. By any measure, this constitutes success.

"SCHIP has had a strong first year of implementation, but the program still has a long way to go to meet the goals Congress set forth in creating the program. In setting aside $24 billion over 10 years for SCHIP, Congress made the program a real priority, and we expect to see real results. Ultimately, I would like to see as many as five million uninsured children covered as a result of SCHIP or the Medicaid outreach efforts that accompany the new program. After one year, the states are well on their way to achieving this goal. On behalf of America's families, I will work closely with the states and with HCFA to make sure that the program lives up to its promise."