Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today voted for Kids First, a comprehensive proposal to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through 2013. SCHIP was created in 1997 to help states provide health coverage to the children of working-poor families who did not qualify for Medicaid.

"We created SCHIP when I was in the House of Representatives to ensure that low-income children in this country were covered by health insurance," said Thune. "It is time to renew this program again and it is important that we focus on the intent of the original legislation and make low-income children the first priority. Kids First would cover states' funding shortfalls, allowing them to keep eligible children enrolled. The proposal is fully paid for - and it allows states to expand health care choices for children and families."

Kids First would eliminate the practice some states have adopted of disregarding other forms of income in order to allow them to cover children from families who make as much as $88,000 or $100,000 per year, which goes well beyond the original intent of the legislation. Kids First would allow new waivers to cover pregnant women.

Additionally, Kids First would provide funding to state SCHIP programs to help them find those children who are already eligible but not yet enrolled. The South Dakota Department of Social Services estimates there may be as many as 3,500 children in South Dakota who are eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but not yet enrolled.

This legislation would make it easier for states to afford their programs while covering more low-income kids, by expanding options for premium assistance. This option allows states to subsidize the premiums of eligible children and families to enable them to keep the health insurance plan they have through their employer, or to afford an insurance plan of their choice.

The Kids First measure was defeated by Senate Democrats who hope to significantly expand the SCHIP program to cover adults and children from higher income families in some states, as well as to ease the citizenship identification provisions currently in place, making fraud much easier. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats' proposal is not paid for and would add $41.6 billion to the deficit through 2019.