Wicker Says SCHIP Should Cover Mississippi’s Needy Children First

Senator Says Legislation Gives Taxpayer-Funded Health Insurance to Middle-Class Families in Wealthy States at the Expense of Mississippians in Need

January 29, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., tonight voted against the Democrats’ legislation reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), saying it would alter the popular program and allow affluent states to use it to cover middle-class families with private health insurance at the expense of Mississippi’s poorest children.  Sen. Wicker issued the following statement after the vote:

“The original intention of SCHIP was to provide low-income children with health insurance.  I voted for the original bill in 1997 and continue to support the fundamentals of this important program.    

“Instead of strengthening SCHIP to ensure more truly needy children receive health care, this bill spends taxpayer dollars to pay for health insurance for middle class families in wealthy states.   This legislation allows families in New York and New Jersey earning up to $88,000 a year the right to government assistance while allowing Mississippi families who earn up to $44,000 to go without.  I do not know of any families in Mississippi that think that sounds like a good deal for them. 

“Mississippi’s CHIP program covers 65,000 children.  There are an additional 30,000 eligible children – those below 200 percent of poverty – that are without health insurance because our state’s program does not have the money to pay for them.  Under this legislation, those children will continue to go without coverage while middle-class families in other parts of the country are covered.

“We need to improve SCHIP so that the 30,000 uninsured children in Mississippi and other needy children across the country have access to health care.  The legislation passed tonight failed to do so.”

SCHIP was originally designed to cover low-income children between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($22,000-$44,000 per year for a family of four).  These families require assistance because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but may not be able to afford private health coverage for their children.