(CNSNews.com) – A proposed change to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), currently under reauthorization by Congress, could make it possible for people to get health coverage by presenting only a Social Security number, not a photo ID or proof of legal residency or citizenship, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or passport.
When asked about this proposed revision in the SCHIP enrollment rules, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the legislation “is enforceable and fair, and I don’t think we need to do any better than what we’ve done.”
Reid added that this proposed change can be debated and senators will be allowed to make amendments to SCHIP as reauthorization moves forward.
The proposed change reverses a Bush administration regulation that required new enrollees to provide photo identification and proof of legal residency or citizenship to qualify for health coverage under SCHIP.
The new rule would require enrollees to present only a Social Security number and no other form of identification. This change opens the possibility that people could enroll in SCHIP with a fake or stolen Social Security number.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, started in 1997, matches federal tax dollars with state funds to pay for the health care of children in families with modest incomes – incomes slightly above the cutoff for Medicaid coverage.
Speaking at a press conference Friday about the past success of SCHIP, Reid was asked why the rules were changed and what states could do to prevent fraud. Reid was evasive in his answers.
When asked if he was willing to accept the risk that people could abuse the new enrollment rule to get SCHIP coverage, Reid was evasive, telling CNSNews.com, “We’re going to have a full debate on this legislation. If people want to offer amendments, they can do that.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) also was evasive in answering why Democrats removed another provision, broadly supported by congressional Republicans, which would have prevented families earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level from enrolling in SCHIP.
The bill would allow families earning more than $63,600 per year to enroll their children in federal health care.
“We had a number of decisions to make on this,” said Rockefeller. “There are only so many fights you can take on.”
Rockefeller chastised critics of the proposal, wondering how fellow senators could vote against a children’s bill simply because of its size.
“To me, it should be difficult enough to (even) think of voting against a bill on children, but people around here want to do that, particularly if they can latch onto an issue like that.”
The provision that could possibly allow fraudulent enrollment has been criticized by some conservative Republicans who think it lacks the provisions needed to adequately prevent illegal immigrants and others from getting free health care.
“We Republicans believe that the legislation should include meaningful provisions to prevent fraudulent activity by those who seek to illegally gain access to this program,” House Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on Jan. 13 in opposition to the bill.