Issues facing America: SCHIP

By Aaron Covey, MD; Samir Mehta, MD; Ryan Nunley, MD; and the Washington Health Policy Fellows

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was implemented as Title XXI of the Social Security Act in 1997. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who proposed that the initiative be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax. Key to gaining bipartisan support was Kennedy’s enlisting of both Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as a co-sponsor and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, who was seeking support of a less ambitious healthcare program after the defeat of the 1993 Clinton healthcare plan.

SCHIP is a low-cost health insurance program designed for children of families whose income level was too high to qualify for Medicaid. As determined by the original legislation, this was at twice the federal poverty level. By federal law, a child who is eligible for Medicaid or who has any employer-sponsored health insurance coverage is ineligible for enrollment in SCHIP.

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