Katie Peters
202-657-0685 (office)
202-445-4312 (mobile)

Washington D.C. – Today, First Focus called on our nation’s governors to hold children harmless as they work with Congress to resolve the challenges of complying with health care mandates in the face of difficult budget circumstances.

Some governors are pushing for repeal of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) provision that was included in the health reform law enacted last year. This provision requires states to maintain coverage levels within both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through at least 2014.

Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, issued the following statement:

“As our nation’s economy struggles to recover, the proper role of our governments is to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are not left worse off. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid have played an important role in reducing the child uninsured rate, cutting it by more than half, or to less than 10 percent, over the past decade. Additionally, despite the devastating impact of the recession, which produced serious increases in child poverty and an increasingly high number of adults without health insurance, the uninsured rate for children remained flat, largely due to these successful programs.

“The governor’s proposal to repeal the maintenance of effort (MOE ) provision would be a step in the wrong direction for children, putting over 14 million kids at risk of losing access to the care on which they depend. This move would undermine the goal of health reform and the creation of the CHIP, which is to reduce the ranks of uninsured in our country.

“Instead, our nation’s leaders should take a fresh look at ways to improve the federal-state partnership, including efforts to rein in federal cost-shifts to Medicaid programs. For example, states could secure significant savings by eliminating the so-called Medicaid prescription drug “clawback” under which states are paying costs associated with the federal Medicare prescription drug benefit. The clawback serves no purpose whatsoever other than to unilaterally force states to pay the federal government billions of dollars in order to fund an entirely federal program.

“Eliminating the clawback will advance the federal-state partnership, while providing states with fiscal relief and simultaneously improving care to vulnerable Americans. Governors should enlist the support of a few of their colleagues that voted for the legislation that imposed the clawback, including Governors Nathan Deal (Georgia), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Butch Otter (Idaho), and Mitch Daniels (Indiana). Ironically, these governors all contributed to their own current financial crisis that they are now complaining about.

“It shouldn’t take a budget or health care expert to recognize that balancing budgets on the backs of children doesn’t add up to a positive future for the next generation or our country.”

Read an Op-Ed in today’s edition of The Hill on this topic by First Focus President Bruce Lesley.