Pediatric hospitalists are praising a new bill that expands the funding and scope of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a program jointly funded by federal and state governments for children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.
"Ideally, this will lead to better primary care, more immunizations, and disease prevention," says Jack Percelay, MD, MPH, a hospitalist at E.L.M.O. Pediatrics in New York City, Treasurer of SHM's board of directors, and a member of SHM's Public Policy Committee. Percelay foresees a twofold benefit of the new legislation: a likely decrease in uninsured pediatric patients using the ED and more fee recovery from patients who otherwise couldn't pay.
David Rappaport, MD, FAAP, a hospitalist at Alfred I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., agrees. "Children's health is more than the cuddly factor—it's a smart investment in healthcare," he says, explaining that paying for preventive measures in children, such as inoculations, can save on their healthcare costs in the future.
Signed by President Obama on Feb. 4, the bill reauthorizes SCHIP for four years and expands eligibility to children in families with incomes of up to three times the federal poverty level. It also covers legal immigrant pregnant women and children who have been in the country less than five years. The expansion will cover an additional 4 million children, raising the total to 11 million uninsured children enrolled in the program. Most of the $32.8 billion increase in federal funding for the program is to be covered by a 62-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax.