July 11,2007

Press Contact:

Jill Kozeny, for Sen. Grassley, 202/224-1308

Jared Whitley, for Sen. Hatch, 202/224-0134

Sarah Little, for Sen. Roberts, 202/224-4774

Sens. Grassley, Hatch, Roberts urge President Bush to protect children’s health care dollars

WASHINGTON — Leading Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee today called on the President to stop the Department of Health and Human Services from granting and extending waivers for adult coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

In a letter, Sens. Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts said they were committed to returning the program to its focus on low-income children as they work on legislation to continue the program for another five years. They said the administration’s approval and renewal of waivers has made it more expensive and more complicated to reauthorize SCHIP.

Grassley and Hatch have been working closely with the Finance Committee Chairman and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care to reach a bipartisan agreement on a reauthorization proposal. The Finance Committee is responsible for health care legislation and oversight of federal health care programs.
A number of states cover more adults through their SCHIP program than they do children, even while high rates of uninsured low-income children remain and the states ran out of money for the program. SCHIP is jointly financed by federal and state governments and is administered by the states.

“The mess created by the waivers makes it even more difficult to reauthorize SCHIP,” Grassley said. “The waivers made program costs mushroom and led to funding shortfalls. Congress had to stopgap those shortfalls, and now Congress has to address the additional costs that come with all the adults that the administration approved for coverage under the children’s health insurance program, as we work to get the program back on track and fulfilling its mission of delivering health care to low-income children.”

“The purpose of CHIP is to help the children of the working poor, those whose parents make too much for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance,” Hatch said. “CHIP has been incredibly successful in delivering care to children for 10 years, and altering that model to allow waivers for adults undermines our ability to help these kids out.”

“I strongly support returning the SCHIP program to its original focus: low-income children. We are signaling to the White House today that we want to make sure we are putting kids first. While we all agree with the need to address the issue of finding affordable health care options for adults, we shouldn’t be putting low-income kids at risk by using SCHIP as a vehicle to cover adults. Our focus should be providing health care coverage to those low-income children who still remain without health care coverage. Unfortunately, these waivers have threatened this priority, but it is our hope the administration will help us return SCHIP to its goal of covering low-income children,” Roberts said.

The text of the letter sent from Grassley, Hatch and Roberts to President George W. Bush follows below, along with the text of a letter regarding the same matter from the three senators to Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt.