Administration attempts to restrict states' authority over Medicaid and SCHIP

WASHINGTON The Bush administration is imposing eligibility restrictions similar to the ones it imposed on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to Medicaid, the New York Times reported.

The administration placed the eligibility on the SCHIP program in August in an attempt “to direct scarce tax dollars to those with the greatest needs,” according to Tony Fratto, a spokesman for President Bush. The federal government has leverage over the states because, it pays a large share of the costs for both Medicaid and SCHIP.

The child health program complements Medicaid. Income limits vary from state to state and tend to cluster from 133 percent to 185 percent of the poverty level for Medicaid, with states allowed to go 50 percentage points higher for the child health program.

State officials in Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma said they had discovered the administration’s intent in negotiations with the federal government over the last few weeks. Each state was trying to increase the amount of people who would be covered for Medicaid, and was told by the government that they were going too far in terms of eligibility and that too many children who were not in the desired poverty level would be eligible, thus taking money away from children more deserving.

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