As Chris mentioned here back in November, the State Children's Health Insurance Program sunsets this year unless Congress acts to reauthorize it.

There are bipartisan proposals to not only extend the program, but also to expand it to cover more children and some adults who can't qualify for Medicaid but can't afford insurance. Funding would come from an increase in the federal cigarette tax.

President Bush's advisers have recommended that he veto any such bill if it passes, because they believe it would encourage more people to drop private insurance and go on publicly funded programs.

Instead, they want Congress to enact Bush's voodoo tax scheme that would tax employer provided health insurance benefits but give back tax credits for health insurance premiums which would somehow encourage people to buy more private insurance, assuming they can understand the plan. The complicated plan was unveiled in Bush's State of the Union speech, but hasn't been heard from again.

At any rate, the Kaiser Family Foundation testified before the Senate Finance Committee in April of this year regarding the effectiveness of the SCHIP program:

SCHIP has successfully worked together with Medicaid to provide health coverage to millions of low-income children.

• SCHIP covers million children today, building on Medicaid's coverage of million children.

• Over the past decade, SCHIP and Medicaid together have reduced the uninsured rate among low-income children by one-third.

• Without SCHIP, millions more children in low-income working families would be uninsured.

Effective outreach, expanded eligibility, and streamlined enrollment and renewal are key elements of SCHIP's success.

• SCHIP established a new paradigm in which priority is given to finding and enrolling eligible children in SCHIP and Medicaid.

• Experience has shown that increasing eligibility, simplifying the enrollment process, and providing months of continuous eligibility boosts coverage of eligible children.

• Continuous outreach and broad messaging about the availability of health coverage create enthusiasm and spur enrollment in SCHIP.

Because of SCHIP, millions of children have better access to the care they need.

• SCHIP and Medicaid increase the likelihood that children will have a medical home and lead to improvements in children's health, yielding benefits in school as well.

• Utilization of preventive and primary care services increases with SCHIP and Medicaid coverage to a level on par with private insurance. • SCHIP and Medicaid have helped to narrow racial and ethnic disparities in access to health care.

As Chris noted back in November, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina are all facing shortfalls in federal funding for their SCHIP programs. Chris also noted that Washington cut SCHIP funding by 26% between 2002 and 2004, and allowed more than $1 billion in unspent funds to expire and revert back to the Treasury.