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Week of 7.6.07

Understanding SCHIP

More than nine million children in the United States lack health insurance. This means they can't get the regular doctor check-ups and medications they need to stay healthy. The number of American children who lack health insurance has declined in recent years, which most experts attribute to public health insurance programs like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

SCHIP Enrollment Graph

Medicaid is a federal government program that serves more than 20 million children in America's poorest families. SCHIP was created in 1997 to provide health insurance to children whose families earn too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough money to purchase private insurance. The program is financed jointly by the federal and state governments. SCHIP is the single largest expansion of health insurance coverage for children since the initiation of Medicaid in the mid-1960s, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

SCHIP offers insurance to children under 18 whose families meet its income requirements. Currently, SCHIP enables an estimated six million low-income children who might otherwise not be able to receive proper health care. Under the program they are able to see a doctor and entitled to immunizations, regular checkups, and hospital care. Each state operates SCHIP using its own name. For example, in New Mexico, the program is called New Mexikids, and in Georgia, it's called PeachCare.

More from NOW: State-by-State: Children's Health Care

Frequently Asked Questions about the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) from the federal government

Learn more about the number of children in your state who lack health insurance

The Future of SCHIP

Since it was created by Congress 10 years ago, SCHIP has enjoyed strong support from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. SCHIP is at the end of its original 10-year authorization and must be extended before it expires on September 30, 2007. While there is broad consensus in Congress about the importance of reauthorizing SCHIP, the debate centers on how much to increase the funding for the program and whether to modify the program's rules. The Bush administration is proposing funding at $4.8 billion over five years, while Democrats in Congress want to more than triple that number, saying that's how much is needed to maintain SCHIP's current level of service. Other divisive issues include the practice of enrolling adults and enrolling families whose incomes exceed the guideline.

The issue is now in the Senate Finance Committee and is expected to be brought to the full Senate later this summer.

Contact your members of Congress about the SCHIP program

Analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities on impact of freezing SCHIP funding

Views of state directors of SCHIP programs about what needs to happen to the program