House May Move on Bill To Allow Some Families To Purchase Medicaid Coverage for Children With Disabilities
House leaders may move a "long-stalled" bill that would allow lower-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid to purchase coverage for children with severe disabilities through the program, CongressDaily reports. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.) at the end of 2002 tabled the Family Opportunity Act, first introduced in 2000, because he sought to revise the legislation to allow private health insurers to provide coverage through SCHIP, rather than Medicaid. However, a compromise reached this year by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has provided the bill with "more momentum" than in the past, according to a Sessions staff member. According to CongressDaily, the compromise, which would "pare down the bill to mollify critics who oppose expansion of public entitlement programs," would allow families with annual incomes that do not exceed 250% of the federal poverty level to purchase coverage for children with severe disabilities through Medicaid; the original bill would have allowed families with annual incomes that do not exceed 600% of the federal poverty level to purchase coverage. The compromise also would allow Medicaid to charge eligible families 7.5% of their incomes, rather than 5% as proposed in the original bill, for coverage. In addition, the compromise would not require Congress to fund the legislation as under the original bill. According to a Senate staff member, the original bill would have cost about $7.9 billion over 10 years, but the compromise likely would "significantly" reduce the cost. A spokesperson for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that he has discussed with House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) plans to move the compromise but has not reached a decision on the issue. The spokesperson added that the House could vote on the compromise as a suspension calendar bill (Heil, CongressDaily, 2/10).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.