Expansion of Children’s Health Insurance Could Clear Senate This Week
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would approve SCHIP reauthorization and expansion legislation this week, CQ Today reports (Jansen, CQ Today, 1/23).
Reid said that SCHIP "is a critical program as states begin to run out of money for children's health care," adding, "We're going to start working on this Monday and pass this bill" by the end of the week (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/23).
The program is set to expire on March 1.
The expansion bill is similar to a measure that former President George W. Bush vetoed in 2007.
It would expand eligibility to children in families with incomes of up to three times the federal poverty level.
Supporters of the bill say it will raise the number of children covered by SCHIP from about seven million to about 11 million (California Healthline, 1/16).
The measure would extend the program for 4.5 years and would increase spending by at least $31.5 billion.
The bill would be funded mainly by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax and tax increases on other tobacco products (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/24).
Senate passage of the measure would trigger a conference with the House, which amended the Senate version into the bill that it passed earlier this month.
The bill would eliminate a five-year waiting period to qualify for SCHIP coverage for new and documented immigrants, and it includes looser citizenship and eligibility documentation requirements (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/23).
Reid said that he expects the immigration waiting-period waiver to remain in the measure through the Senate amendment process (Edney, CongressDaily, 1/23).
Republicans have expressed opposition to allowing higher-income families to qualify for SCHIP.
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said, "I don't believe it's good public policy for a family with an income of $83,000 to be able to get onto SCHIP."
However, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said, "It would be irresponsible for the federal government to cap funding to the states when working families need more public assistance, not less" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/24).Reid said, "I hope that we don't have to file cloture" to restrict debate on the bill, adding, "At the end of the week, if we find that there is a wide delay and not a responsiveness to get the bill concluded, then we will decide whether we should do something procedurally" (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/23). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.