Date: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 1998
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: HCFA Press Office(202) 690-6145
HHS Approves South Carolina Plan to Insure More Children
HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala announced today that South Carolina has won approval of its program to provide health insurance coverage for thousands of uninsured children.
The program is the result of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), historic, bipartisan legislation signed last year by President Clinton. This law allocates $24 billion over the next five years to help states expand health insurance to children whose families earn too much for traditional Medicaid yet not enough to afford private health insurance.
South Carolina, which could receive as much as $63 million in new funds for fiscal 1998, will extend coverage to as many as 75,000 uninsured children in the state by expanding eligibility for its existing Medicaid program to children in families with income up to 150 percent of poverty.
"Approving South Carolina's plan is a strong step toward this Administration's goal of providing insurance to children who need it," said Secretary Shalala. "Many of these children come from working families whose employers either don't offer coverage for children, or whose insurance is simply too expensive for family budgets."
South Carolina is one of the first three states to win approval of its CHIP plan, along with Alabama and Colorado. South Carolina and Alabama are using CHIP to expand their Medicaid programs. Colorado will use its CHIP funds to expand its non-Medicaid managed care program.
"We are pleased South Carolina is ready to move ahead in providing health care coverage that is so critical to a bright future for the state's children," said Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), which runs the CHIP Medicaid and Medicare programs.
The children's insurance program is a state/federal partnership. It gives states new flexibility in designing programs and covering children whose family incomes are higher than traditional Medicaid limits. Under CHIP, states may either cover
children in families whose incomes are above the Medicaid eligibility threshold but less than 200 percent of poverty, or within 50 percentage points over the state's current Medicaid limit for children.
In order for states to receive their share of the $24 billion, their child health plans for extending health insurance to targeted low-income children must be approved by HHS. The program allows states three options: designing a new children's health insurance program; expanding their current Medicaid programs; or a combination of both strategies.
"With CHIP, we're doing more than putting an insurance card into parents' hands," said Claude Earl Fox, M.D.,M.P.H., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the HHS agency working with HCFA and states to implement CHIP. "We're extending a hand to families, helping them enroll in the new program and get their children into the high quality, comprehensive health care that will keep them healthy, learning and growing."
For the first year of the program, allotments totaling $4.2 billion are available to states whose plans are approved by Sept. 30, 1998. In addition to the three states already approved, the following states have submitted plans: Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
"Securing access to decent health care is among the highest priorities of the President, the First Lady and myself," said Secretary Shalala. "Getting the CHIP program up and running in South Carolina brings us closer to the goal of guaranteeing a healthy future for all of America's children."
Note: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.hhs.gov.