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Why the NC Senate’s amendment on child health insurance means nothing

This afternoon, as the NC Senate passed their version of the state budget, the provisions of the bill regarding freezing affordable child health insurance (Health Choice) were amended.  Offered by Senator Kay Hagan, the amendment didn't restore the $8 plus million dollar cut the NC Senate made in the House and Governor's plan for keeping the program open.  Not only was there no new money, but the amendment left in place the Senate's plan to close the program to new children starting September 1, 2008.

What did the amendment do?  It orders the state Health Choice program to start enrolling kids if Congress reauthorizes the program next year.  Without any new money for Health Choice to do this, this is essentially a meaningless bit of political fig leaf.  You can tell a state agency to do something, but without giving them any funding to do it (and I strongly doubt any state agency has millions of extra dollars lying around idle these days anyway) means it won't get done.

Finally, this amendment ignores the facts, as detailed in my post below.  Congress did reauthorize the program with plenty of funding through the end of March 2009.  NC is in no danger of running out of federal funds for Health Choice.  If Congress fails to act to reauthorize for a longer period as everyone expects early next year, the General Assembly will be in session then and can close the program at that point if that's what they really want to do.  It is simply pointless to close it now and moreover will hurt thousands of North Carolina families.

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Why the NC Senate’s amendment on child health insurance means nothing