Resolution on Health Care for the Poor


The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

Created as part of the historic, bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is the largest single expansion of health insurance coverage for children in more than 30 years. Today, more than 10 million American children - one in seven - are uninsured. This initiative was designed to reach these children, many of whom come from working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private health insurance. This new initiative set aside $24 billion over five years for states to provide new health coverage for millions of children - the largest children's health care investment since the creation of Medicaid in 1965. States are able to use part of their federal funds to expand outreach and ensure that all children eligible for Medicaid and the new SCHIP program are enrolled.

The initiative is a partnership between the federal and state governments that will help provide children with the health coverage they need to grow up healthy and strong. The SCHIP program requires that states use this new money to cover uninsured children -- and not replace existing health coverage. The program also includes important cost-sharing protections so that low-income families will not be burdened with heavy out-of-pocket expenses. Funds for the program became available to the states on October 1, 1997. States receive enhanced federal matching funds only for actual expenditures to insure children.

HHS has approved SCHIP plans for all 50 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Additionally, 71 amendments to SCHIP plans and three demonstration projects have been approved to enroll even more children and families. In fiscal year 2000, 3.3 million children were covered by SCHIP.

COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

COBRA allows most employees who leave or lose their jobs to continue their former employer's group health insurance for up to 18 months at their own expense. Eligibility also extends to dependents and spouses if the employee dies or gets divorced. The problem is that the insurance will cost a lot more than before.  Group coverage makes COBRA cheaper than most individual policies, but the ex-employee pays 100 percent of his or her premium, plus an administrative fee.  The law generally covers group health plans maintained by employers having 20 or more employees in the previous year.

COBRA applies to plans in the private sector and those sponsored by state and local governments.

WHEREAS the Torah teaches us that we have the obligation to heal the sick (רפוא ירפא) Exodus (21:19) and that “the obligation to heal the poor devolves upon the community as well as the physician”; and

WHEREAS the cost of administering Medicaid falls upon the states; and

WHEREAS low income individuals and families are likely to forego health care due to the soaring expense; and

WHEREAS COBRA insurance, which provides healthcare coverage for unemployed workers (as explained in the attached document), is not available to 2/3 of these workers since their employers (very small businesses) were not required to provide COBRA, and few low-income unemployed workers can afford to pay the full cost of COBRA premiums, usually several thousand dollars a year.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the Federal government to increase its share of funding Medicaid programs to expand health care for low income people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Rabbinical Assembly support the expansion of CHIP – the Child Health Insurance Program (as explained in attached document) – to include the parents of those children and that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the Federal government to subsidize COBRA premiums and to provide transitional health insurance for those not currently eligible.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, February, 2002