Camden pastor works to override SCHIP veto

May 15, 2008

Rev. Heyward Wiggins, pastor of Camden Bible Tabernacle Church in North Camden and a leader in the PICO National Network, appeared with New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Rep. Frank Pallone on Monday to support legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Pallone (HR 5598) that would block implementation of a federal rule limiting the ability of states to expand their SCHIP programs to families earning above 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

In his remarks, Rev. Wiggins noted the harmful impact that the new directive - issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last August with the support of the White House - would have on children and families in New Jersey. Currently, New Jersey's FamilyCare program covers children in families making up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or $74,200 for a family of four. By limiting the program to families making 250 percent of the FPL, or $52,000 for a family of four, approximately 11,000 children in New Jersey would no longer qualify for coverage.

"The President vetoed a bipartisan SCHIP bill that would have provided health insurance to many of the 250,000 New Jersey children who still go without," Wiggins said. "As often happens when Washington can't solve a problem, it was left to the states to provide leadership on the issue. Except, this time, the White House decided not only to block progress in covering kids, but - through the CMS directive issued last August - it moved to reduce the number of children covered. At a time when we need leadership in Washington that moves us toward the finish line of covering all children, the CMS directive would reverse the progress that New Jersey and other states have made in reducing the number of uninsured children over the past 10 years."

PICO has joined with First Focus, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and 170 other national, state, and local organizations in calling for a moratorium to the SCHIP directive and requesting that President Bush voluntarily withdraw the rules. The Government Accountability Office recently said that the rules were illegal and there has been growing pressure on the Administration to rescind the directive.