The Corpus Callosum

SCHIP Sails Again

The new Congress and new Administration passed a law already.  It
was barely notied by the media.  It is a reauthorization and
expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
(SCHIP).  Given the expected resistance to major changes in
health care, it was astonishingly easy for Congress and the President
to get this done.

Details are in an open-access article in NEJM:

href="http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMp0900461">Expanding
Coverage for Children — The Democrats’ Power and SCHIP Reauthorization

John K. Iglehart
NEJM February 4, 2009
(doi:10.1056/NEJMp0900461)

In the first demonstration of Democratic dominance on
health care issues since Barack Obama captured the White House, the new
Congress quickly reauthorized the State Children’s Health Insurance
Program (SCHIP), enabling the president to sign the measure into law
within days after taking office. Though falling short of President
Obama’s goal of ensuring that “every child in America has access to
affordable health care,” the measure should sustain SCHIP’s current
enrollment of about 7 million and expand coverage to an additional 4.1
million children by 2013…President Obama signed the bill into law on
February 4.

There are several interesting things about this bill.  One is the
fact that it allows coverage for legal immigrant children and pregnant
women. 

One topic that many of the reports don’t mention is the changes to the
mental heatlh care provision.  As noted on Medscape (free
registration required):

Leading
Psychiatric Organizations Laud Obama’s Signing of SCHIP Bill

New Law Includes Strong Mental-Health Coverage
Marlene Busko

…The bill (HR 2) requires private SCHIP plans to cover mental
illnesses at the same rate and on the same terms as other disorders and
eliminates discriminatory coverage of mental illness under the existing
law…

This is a step in the right direction.  The problem is that there
are so few resources for mentally ill children and adolescents, that
increased funding might not have much impact, at first.  There are
not enough adequately trained therapists and psychiatrists to provide
the services that these kids need.

If the government can provide funding that is sufficiently reliable,
and not impose too many barriers, then we should see more professionals
enter the field.