Proposed cuts could leave children uninsured

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

YARMOUTH, Maine - Medicaid restructuring and a cut in funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) could mean changes and lost revenue for HME dealers who provide pediatric health care and supplies.

SCHIP, the federal matching funds program that was inaugurated in 1997 by the Clinton administration, covers children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but who are in need of assistance on health coverage.

The program, which has grown by leaps and bounds, now is facing a 44 percent cut in 2004 based on federal budget proposals presented by the Bush administration. Between 2004 and 2013, Medicaid and SCHIP could be cut by $2.4 billion.

Those cuts will mean a substantial number of children will lose their health coverage.

“As we have job layoffs and economic decline there are more people who are forced on to that social safety net, and if that money is cut then that is going to have an affect on DME providers,” said Roberta Domos, owner of Domos HME Consulting Group in New Albany, Ind.

The cuts grow more dire as recent findings from the Urban Institute show an increase in the number of children who rely on Medicaid and SCHIPS over private insurance programs.

Between 1998 and 2002, both the number of uninsured children and the number of children covered by private insurers decreased. Medicaid and SCHIPS filled that gap, and the coverage of children in families living near the poverty level grew from 35 percent to 47 percent, bringing the total to number of children covered by the programs to 17.4 million in 2002.

“The SCHIP program has helped catch those kids when their parents got laid off and lost their heath insurance,” said Domos. “If that program is cut, then ultimately we are going to have fewer children insured. There’s already 7 million children uninsured, so that’s concerning.”

Since its start, $4 billion in federal grants have been awarded to states for SCHIP. However, recent budget woes have forced states to slow expansion of the program and erect more enrollment barriers. This trend could reverse progress made in ensuring that children have needed health insurance, according to the Urban Institute.

“The fewer people insured, the worse it is for the HME industry,” said Domos. “That’s the bottom line.”