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Health of SD Kids Caught in the Crosshairs of S-CHIP Debate

December 14, 2007

Washington, DC – The health of South Dakota kids is again caught in the crosshairs of a major disagreement between the President and Congress. A third version of the bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) fell victim to another veto by President Bush this week. Children's advocacy groups are hopeful Congress will take immediate action to continue coverage at current levels. Bruce Lesley with the bipartisan group First Focus says states like South Dakota are running out of money, so coverage for low-income kids is in serious jeopardy.

"There's 21 states in the country, including South Dakota, looking at a possible shortfall in the coming year. There are more kids and, because of health care inflation, the program is currently under-funded by about $1.6 billion. So, by not taking action, that shortfall is becoming a disaster for families across this country in those 21 states."

Lesley says that states are dependent on federal support for maintaining the children's health program and that at least nine states could run completely out of funds by March. He says South Dakota is also a state at risk.

"California, and I believe two other states, have already said that if they don't see a fully funded extension occur within the next few weeks they're going to have to start cutting children off the coverage. For states like South Dakota, that would happen more in the spring, fall or next summer. Some states have this immediate crisis, but there's 21 states that will have a crisis over the next year unless something happens now."

Lesley says S-CHIP serves more than 6 million low-income children across the nation and has reduced the number of kids who are uninsured by a third. The program helped more than 68,000 South Dakotans under age 18 last year.

David Law/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - SD