SCHIP Myth Versus Reality – Lessons from TN


With all the pontificating in DC about how SCHIP must be expanded to reach uninsured children, the recent experience of Tennessee is enlightening. TN’s SCHIP program covers families up to 250 percent of poverty (almost $52,000 a year for a family of four). With an estimated 130,000 uninsured kids in TN, only 3,400 have signed up for the new program. TN will distribute one million applications at the start of the school year to try to get more kids enrolled.
Maybe the solution is not to expand a government-run health care program that people clearly don’t want. Maybe the solution is expanding awareness of affordable private health insurance options.
Indeed, any family can buy SCHIP coverage in TN (called CoverKids) for $210 a month per child, if they earn too much for the no premium option.
According to, a family living in Memphis has 63 different private individual health insurance plans available for their child/ren. These plans start as low as $25 a month. A $1,500 deductible child-only plan costs only $62 a month, with no copay for medical expenses over $1,500, including prescription drugs. That means a child in TN with this plan and $20,000 in medical expenses would only pay $2,244 in both premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses (the deductible). That same family would pay $2,520 for CoverKids, the SCHIP plan from the state, if they paid full price as a result of their income.
What would you want for your child?
Maybe TN families are not so different. CoverKids may be more aptly named CoverSomeoneElse’sKids.