Governor Barbour

January 26, 2009


“The United States Senate will vote this week on a child health insurance bill that continues shortchanging Mississippi and our children. I urge our senators to vote against it unless its discrimination against the needy children of our state is corrected.

Liberals supporting this bill will claim it is about health care for poor children. That is not true. If it were about health care for poor children, the bill would not shortchange the poor children of Mississippi by tens of millions of dollars.

Instead the main effect of this bill is to give taxpayer-funded health insurance to middle class families in wealthy states, and thereby, to bring government-run health care a step closer to reality.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program has been in place for more than a decade. S-CHIP gives grants to states, and the states use the grant monies plus state funds to provide health insurance to children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but less than 200% of the federally-defined poverty level (FPL).

Since the inception of the program Mississippi has never received sufficient S-CHIP funds to cover all the eligible children in the state. In fact, the federal S-CHIP grant has never been enough to cover even half of our eligible children.

We have managed to run the program and cover all the children who signed up, only because other, wealthier states did not spend their entire grants and those unspent funds were reallocated to Mississippi and other similarly situated states.

Last year I testified before Congress to ask that any new S-CHIP bill quit short-changing Mississippi and other states.

It is critical Mississippi’s poor children be provided for before children in New York and New Jersey, whose families make $65,000 or even $88,000 per year. Those families are not only not poor, they make well above the average family income in the United States.

Average family income in the United States is about $50,000 per year. In our state, we follow the original rules of S-CHIP and cover children with family income of up to 200% of FLP, or about $44,000.

The bill the liberal Democrat Congress has before it did not raise the level of funding to our state enough to insure we can cover all children under 200% of poverty level income, but it allows wealthy states to give S-CHIP coverage to children whose families make far more.

It is estimated this bill will give free government health insurance to some one-half million children who today have private health insurance. That’s outrageous, and it makes clear the real purpose of this bill is to replace our private health care system with a government-run health care system. If it were really about health care for poor children, this bill would provide or guarantee sufficient funding to cover every child with family income below 200% of the poverty level in Mississippi and all the other states that are being shortchanged.”