U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) voted again today to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which offers coverage for children in low-income families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance. The bill also includes two provisions, secured by Alexander and Corker, vital to Tennessee’s hospitals that provide uncompensated care.
“The reauthorization of SCHIP will boost Tennessee’s efforts to provide health coverage for the state’s neediest children like the 10,000 children currently being served through the state’s CoverKids program,” Alexander said. “Thanks to this bill, more of Tennessee’s 127,000 uninsured children will be able to take advantage of this valuable program. In addition, this bill contains provisions that ensure that Tennessee hospitals are no longer penalized for helping the sick and disadvantaged. This bill has some significant improvements. Now the president and Congress need to promptly resolve their differences, agree on this bill and renew it so that the nation’s needy children will be covered.”
“As I’ve done twice before, I voted today to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. While it is unfortunate that our Senate leaders chose to bring this bill up before a broader agreement could be reached, I’m optimistic we will have an SCHIP bill signed into law in the next few weeks,” said Corker. “I’m also pleased that Sen. Alexander and I have been able to keep two very critical provisions in the bill which ensure that Tennessee’s safety net hospitals can continue to provide uninsured and low-income patients with vital health care services.”
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), begun ten years ago, offers coverage for children in low-income families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance. This bill’s $35.4 billion expansion over five years will reduce the ranks of the nation’s uninsured children by boosting the program’s enrollment to more than 10 million children, up from the current 6.6 million.
Alexander and Corker secured Tennessee-specific provisions in the bill, including one that provides for a permanent annual Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotment for Tennessee of $30 million per year. DSH payments help compensate hospitals – like UT Medical Center, Erlanger Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The Med) – that treat large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Tennessee and Hawaii are the only two states that do not have permanent DSH allotments.
Another provision reinstates The Med’s ability to be reimbursed for treating Medicaid and uninsured patients from Arkansas and Mississippi. Uninsured patients account for approximately 25 percent of The Med’s total caseload, resulting in $80 million annually in uncompensated care costs that the facility cannot absorb on its own.
This SCHIP reauthorization bill passed the Senate by a 64 to 30 vote.