Unused federal funds slated for states to provide low-income children with health insurance reverted on October 1 back to the Treasury, according to the New York Times. Overall, states lost approximately $1.2 billion in funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Those funds can now be used for anything from farm subsidies to the fight against terrorism, the Times reports. State officials attribute the problem to an uneven system of distribution, wherein states were allotted more money than they could use at the start of the program in 1997, and less money than they need at present. State officials are urging Congress to extend the deadline for using the money – the Bush Administration estimates that if the deadline is not extended states stand to lose another $1.6 billion for the program next year, according to the Times.
New York, which serves more than 500,000 children in the state, lost the most money, at about $397 million. New York has nearly two million low-income children, and over 350,000 of those are uninsured, according to the Census Bureau. Currently, there are 8.5 million uninsured children, and 3.4 million of those are defined as “poor” or “near-poor” by the Census Bureau. Nationally, only about 42 percent of all children eligible for CHIP are enrolled, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The news of this withdrawal of funding from the program comes on the heels of the Bush Administration’s decision to create a regulation to cover fetuses and embryos under CHIP. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson just last week reneged on a previous statement of support for extending coverage to pregnant women under CHIP, claiming that covering the fetuses was a means to the same end. However, by covering only fetuses and embryos and not pregnant women, there are serious concerns about the coverage of women with illnesses such as cancer, anemia, toxemia, and diabetes that do not necessarily affect the fetus. In addition, pro-choice groups, including the Feminist Majority, are concerned that the Bush Administration is in fact trying to establish independent rights for fetuses in an effort to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose abortion.