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Rewriting History to Cut Women’s Health Care Coverage

by Andrea Irwin

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is up for reauthorization by Congress this year.  Did you know that SCHIP not only provides coverage to children, but also to some of their parents?

SCHIP provides health insurance coverage to approximately 500,000 low-income parents.  Opponents of family-based coverage in SCHIP have been threatening to cut off this vulnerable population, leaving them with no viable alternatives for obtaining health care coverage.  They claim that because there is no “A” in SCHIP, no adults should benefit from the program even though there has been bipartisan support for covering parents throughout the program’s history.  In fact, when SCHIP was enacted in 1997 to target low-income children, states that already covered these children through Medicaid were encouraged by both the Clinton and Bush administrations to expand SCHIP coverage to low-income parents, emphasizing this strategy as a powerful tool to reduce the growing number of uninsured.

In states with family-coverage programs, children were more likely to get enrolled, access health care services, and stay enrolled.  Not only is parent coverage good for kids, it’s good for the parents too!  It’s a win-win!

Working mothers need health insurance to stay healthy and employed for their own well-being, in addition to helping them to provide for their families.  It’s simply common sense that covering parents and kids together will lead to better health outcomes for the whole family!

These low-income parents, mostly single mothers, have very few options for health care coverage through public insurance programs or their employers.  The income level for Medicaid eligibility for parents varies by state; the median is just 65% of the federal poverty level, or about $11,160 for a single mother with two kids, leaving many poor parents with no access to health care coverage.  Do you know how your state fares in covering poor parents?

Cutting 500,000 parents from SCHIP is a huge step backward.  At a time when the number of uninsured Americans is rising rapidly, President Bush and Congress should be moving forward by expanding coverage to low-income children and families in Medicaid and SCHIP, not eliminating coverage for the most vulnerable.  Stay tuned for updates on this critical legislative battle!

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