Bush Approves Kids’ Health Extension With Funds Through 2009
President Bush on Saturday signed legislation that will provide funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program through March 2009, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
The extension is expected to provide enough funds to cover children currently enrolled in the program. Bush and some Republican lawmakers say that with the extension, the program will continue providing health coverage for children in families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid but that cannot afford private insurance, according to the AP/Houston Chronicle. White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said, "We're pleased that the program will be extended and that states can be certain of their funding."
Democrats, who were unable to reach a compromise with Republicans on a long-term reauthorization of the program, have said that they will continue to negotiate with GOP leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Democrats will not stop "until 10 million children receive the health care coverage they deserve" (Feller, AP/Houston Chronicle, 12/29/07).
Republican and Democratic lawmakers say that when they return to Congress in January 2008, they will try to reach a compromise on a long-term reauthorization of SCHIP, the AP/Lexington Herald-Leader reports. However, while "[d]ifferences over who should get coverage have clearly narrowed over the past months, differences over how to pay for expansion remain considerable," according to the AP/Herald-Leader.
Congress last month approved a continuing resolution that will maintain coverage for current beneficiaries, after Bush twice vetoed large spending increases proposed by Democrats. The "modest spending increase" has "scuttled" plans by several states that had planned to expand health coverage, the AP/Herald-Leader reports. "Few expected such a result when 2007 began," according to the AP/Herald-Leader.
Democrats also were unable to rescind guidelines issued by the Bush administration in August 2007 that require states to enroll at least 95% of eligible low-income children before expanding eligibility to children in families with higher incomes. The policy directive will impact about half the states.
Cindy Mann, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, said that the rule is "definitely a step backward from where we started in 2007," adding, "We would have seen growth in the program. We're not going to see that growth, and by August, we'll start to see a ratcheting down" (Freking, AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 12/26/07).