U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09.) voted with a bipartisan majority in favor of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization Act. The bill renews and improves SCHIP, providing health care coverage for 11 million children – preserving coverage for the 7 million children currently covered by SCHIP and extends it to 4 million uninsured children who are currently eligible for, but not enrolled in, SCHIP and Medicaid.

“The reauthorization of SCHIP is a major victory for children in Washington state and across the country,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “The renewal provides millions of children with one of their most fundamental needs – quality healthcare.”

SCHIP was created in 1997 to help families get medical care when they made too much money to get Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.  The bill passed by the House today will provide states resources needed for outreach to enroll eligible families in the program.

Congressman Smith was particularly pleased to see significant gains for Washington state in today’s bill.  The legislation allows Washington state to use a larger portion of its federal allocation, above the 20% previously allowed, for SCHIP through FY 2013. When SCHIP was first implemented, Washington state already covered SCHIP-eligible children under our state’s Medicaid program.  Because of this it is considered a ‘qualifying’ state and has not been allowed to transfer kids from Medicaid to SCHIP or use the full federal allotment for SCHIP on the Medicaid kids.

Further, the bill will provide matching funds to assist with the state’s planned expansion to cover kids up to 300% of the federal poverty line. The bill also includes a provision – another benefit to Washington state -- that would give states the option of covering legal immigrant children who have been less than five years under SCHIP and Medicaid.  It covers children – legally here – sooner than a five-year waiting period, in order to prevent critical health problems from going unchecked. Washington is one of 22 states that uses state funds to cover this population and current federal law prohibits them from being eligible for SCHIP in their first 5 years of residency.

“The renewal of SCHIP is a win for our country and a win for Washington state,” said Smith. “With unemployment rising, causing many to lose healthcare for their children and their families, this reauthorization is exceptionally important.”