President approves expansion of New York's Child Health Plus program - Catholic Courier

President approves expansion of New York’s Child Health Plus program

Approximately 70,000 uninsured New York children will become eligible for health-insurance coverage thanks to President Barack Obama’s June 11 approval of expansion of the state’s Child Health Plus program.

In New York, Child Health Plus — which covers children in poor families who are not eligible for Medicaid but do not have or cannot obtain affordable health-insurance coverage — is partially funded by the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In February Obama signed into law a $32.8 billion SCHIP reauthorization and expansion, which was supported by the Diocese of Rochester’s Public Policy Committee.

Obama’s approval of New York’s Child Health Plus expansion — which is retroactive to September 2008 — makes the state eligible to receive $64 million in new federal funding to expand the program, according to a June 12 statement by Gov. David Paterson.

The approval for additional federal funding comes nearly two years after former President George W. Bush denied New York’s request for federal matching funding to support expansion of Child Health Plus. Following that denial, Gov. Paterson proposed and the state Legislature agreed to expand the program with state funding effective Sept. 1, 2008. In March 2009, the state Department of Health submitted a new request for federal funds.

Expansion of Child Health Plus was included in the 2007-08 state budget, which increased the income eligibility for the program from 250 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, making approximately 70,000 additional uninsured children eligible for coverage. To qualify for the program, the annual income eligibility for a family of three is now $73,000; it previously was $46,000, according to Paterson’s statement.

“This is a win for New York’s children and another example of President Obama’s commitment to providing access to affordable health insurance to all Americans,” the governor said in his statement. “This federal funding will provide fiscal relief and allow us to reach more children at a time when access to affordable health insurance is more critical than ever for New York’s families.”

In addition to approving the expansion, Paterson said that the president agreed to allow New York to add two new exceptions to the six-month waiting period for families who drop employer coverage to enroll their children in Child Health Plus. Now, children under age of 5 will be exempt from the waiting period, and an additional exception would be granted for parents who can no longer afford the cost of private coverage if that cost exceeds 5 percent of a family’s income.

As of May 2009, Child Health Plus covered 386,000 children in New York. Since the expansion to 400 percent of the federal poverty level last September, an additional 22,000 children have been enrolled.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information on Child Health Plus is available at the New York State Department of Health Web site

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