SCHIP: HHS Continues to Approve Waivers That Are Inconsistent with Program Goals

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Correspondence issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "States provide health care coverage to about 60 million low-income uninsured adults and children largely through two federal-state programs--Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Medicaid, established in title XIX of the Social Security Act, generally covers low-income families and elderly and disabled individuals, and SCHIP, established in title XXI of the act, covers children in families whose incomes, although low, are above Medicaid's eligibility requirements. In 2001, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced a new initiative--the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability Initiative (HIFA)--under ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. January 5, 2004.

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Correspondence issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "States provide health care coverage to about 60 million low-income uninsured adults and children largely through two federal-state programs--Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Medicaid, established in title XIX of the Social Security Act, generally covers low-income families and elderly and disabled individuals, and SCHIP, established in title XXI of the act, covers children in families whose incomes, although low, are above Medicaid's eligibility requirements. In 2001, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced a new initiative--the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability Initiative (HIFA)--under which states could expand coverage to uninsured populations using Medicaid and SCHIP funds. HIFA encourages states to develop coordinated public and private health insurance coverage options and to target program resources to uninsured individuals with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Authority for this initiative comes from section 1115 of the Social Security Act, which allows the Secretary to waive many of the statutory requirements of Medicaid or SCHIP in the case of experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects that promote program objectives. Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has the lead role in reviewing HIFA waiver applications. In a July 2002 report, we raised legal and policy concerns about the need to clearly establish purposes and populations for which SCHIP funds may be spent. Our specific concerns related to HHS's approval of a HIFA waiver for Arizona, which proposed using unspent SCHIP funds to cover childless adults. We reported that, in our view, approving a waiver to use SCHIP funds for expanding coverage to childless adults was inconsistent with SCHIP's statutory objective to expand health coverage to low-income children. Because the SCHIP statute requires that unused funds be redistributed to states that have spent their allotments, states' coverage of childless adults using SCHIP funds decreases the funding available in future years for reallocation to states with unmet SCHIP needs. We also reported that HHS had approved HIFA waivers for Arizona and California to use SCHIP funds to cover parents of SCHIP- and Medicaid-eligible children without regard to cost-effectiveness, even though the SCHIP statute provides that families may be covered only if such coverage is cost-effective--that is, only if covering the family costs no more than covering the eligible children. We suggested that Congress consider specifying in statute that SCHIP funds are not available to cover childless adults and recommended that HHS deny any pending or future state proposals to spend SCHIP funds for such coverage. We also suggested that Congress consider establishing which statutory objectives should take precedence: those of the SCHIP statute, which authorizes family coverage only if cost-effective, or those of section 1115, which allows certain statutory provisions--such as cost-effectiveness tests--to be set aside. Congress requested that we update our analysis of states' HIFA waiver proposals and approved by HHS after July 2002."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • January 5, 2004

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. SCHIP: HHS Continues to Approve Waivers That Are Inconsistent with Program Goals, text, January 5, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc299149/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.