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Senator Boxer Introduces Bill to Stop State Preemption of Gun Lawsuits

By Jubi Headley

The crusade to insure all of our nation’s children continues as strong as ever on Capitol Hill, and the latest legislative initiative on this front has come from sophomore Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO). She recently introduced legislation to provide states, local government, community-based organizations and families with the additional tools necessary to ensure eligible children are enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or Medicaid.

The legislation-"The Improved Maternal and Children’s Health Coverage Act of 1999 (HR 827)-enhances access for low-income families to the SCHIP and Medicaid programs by providing uniform applications, streamlining the enrollment process, and improving outreach efforts.

"Money alone will not solve America-s health challenges," DeGette said at a February 24 press conference. "We must maximize our existing resources by streamlining government bureaucracy, being more creative and aggressive in our outreach efforts, and making it easier for families to tap into these benefits. We all know that kids who not get routine, preventive health care will not reach their full potential. We simply cannot afford to put our kids at that disadvantage."

Specifically, HR 827 includes provisions to:

  • Create a unified and simplified application form and process to be used in determining eligibility for both Medicaid and the State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • Lift states’ administrative spending caps for the purposes of persuading states to undertake greater outreach efforts to uninsured children;
  • Extend greater coverage to pregnant, uninsured women; and
  • Give states greater options and more flexibility in establishing outreach sites, such as schools and child care providers.

The bill also allows states to use $500 million made available to them in the 1996 welfare reform law to enroll eligible individuals in both Medicaid and CHIP. The Conference of Mayors worked successfully with Rep. DeGette’s office to ensure the inclusion of language in the bill which directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a procedure by which, if states do not otherwise obligate their share of the funds for outreach under the 1996 welfare law, local governments and non-profits may seek access to these funds.

The legislation does require local governments and non-profits to obtain permission from states in order to apply for these funds, a concern which the Conference voiced in a letter to Rep. DeGette from Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran. "We are nevertheless heartened," Cochran continued, "that [the inclusion of language to allow local governments access to these funds] encourages states to ensure that federal funds under their control are distributed in the best

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