Several major changes to SCHIP follow the passage of this bill:
- States can opt to extend coverage to legal immigrant children without the 5-year delay (verification of citizenship status is necessary).
- Dental coverage is mandated.
- Equal coverage for both mental health and physical health issues ("mental health parity") is required.
A criticism of the bill is that low-income individuals will switch from private to public insurance as a result of this expansion -- putting unnecessary burden on the government and tax payer dollars. While this may happen in certain cases, there is absolutely a need to ensure access to health insurance for more children in the US.
Current estimates are that nearly 9 million children remain uninsured (from a Kaiser Family Foundation report published last month). Insurance will likely help children get access to vaccinations, primary care services, dental care, and other disease care services that can improve their health into adolescence and adulthood. The next step is to make sure that eligible families are enrolled in the program so that these efforts reach the children who need them most.