August 03, 2007

CARDIN HAILS SENATE PASSAGE OF CHILDREN'S HEALTH PROGRAM

Bill Includes Senator's Amendments to Improve Access to Dental Care

Susan Sullam: 410-962-4436

 

 



WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, today hailed Senate passage of expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).   Currently, approximately 6.6 million low-income children receive their health through the CHIP. T he Senate bill would expand coverage to an additional 3.2 million children nationwide, including approximately 42,000 children in Maryland.  

 

The bipartisan Senate bill, which passed by a vote of 68-31, would provide substantially more funds for the Maryland Children's Health Insurance Program (MCHIP).   Maryland would receive an allotment based on its projected spending, access to a contingency fund if there is a shortfall and additional funds based on gains in enrollment.   The allotment for Maryland would increase form $67 million in FY 2007 to $188.9 million in FY 2008.   This increase would allow Maryland to extend coverage to as many of 42,000 currently uninsured children over the next five years. Currently, 101,000 Maryland children are enrolled in MCHIP.

 

The Senate bill would reauthorize the CHIP program for five years at $35 billion. It would establish grants for improved dental access.  It would provide $200 million in new grants for states to improve accessibility and strengthen dental coverage for children.  It also would provide $100 million in new grants to fund state for outreach and enrollment efforts to reach more children eligible for CHIP and Medicaid

 

Earlier this year, Senator Cardin co-sponsored the Children's Dental Health Improvement Act (S. 739) to improve the access to and delivery of dental care to uninsured children through a number of steps, including a federal grants to states to improve dental access and allowing them to extend dental coverage to low-income children who have other health insurance coverage but lack dental benefits.

 

"I am particularly pleased that the bill provides grants to states to improve dental coverage for children," said Senator Cardin. "The tragic death of Deamonte Driver highlighted the need to provide children with access to dental care.   This bill will help do that."

 

Senator Cardin authored several provisions that were included in the Senate bill.   They include:

  • Requiring states applying for the $200 million-grant program to provide a detailed description of dental services it covers, a plan to improve dental coverage and services, and the activities it proposes to conduct with grant funds.   It permits states to use dental grant funds in the bill to provide enhanced dental coverage to CHIP-enrolled children in their states.  
  • Expanding the CHIP web site www.insurekidsnow.gov and hotline (1-800-877-KIDS-NOW) to provide comprehensive information on the dental benefits and providers available to children through each state's Medicaid and CHIP programs.

 

  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to Congress on the availability of oral health services to children in underserved communities.

 

  • Requiring quality reports to Congress to include dental care as well as physical and mental health care.

 

Additionally, the Senate bill would improve access to mental health services and it allocates $49 million for a demonstration project to streamline the enrollment process for low-income children already eligible for coverage.

 

As with the current Children's Health Insurance Program, the Senate bill is paid for by increasing the tax already imposed on tobacco products. Specifically, the measure creates new revenue from a 61-cent increase in the excise tax on cigarettes, as well as a proportional increase on all other tobacco products.

 

The House recently passed similar legislation.   The two versions will go to Conference Committee to work out the differences.