Lawmakers Fail To Meet Deadline for Children’s Health Compromise Bill
Lawmakers on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement on revisions to a bill that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, CongressDaily reports.
The lawmakers had set Wednesday as the deadline to complete negotiations on the bill that could garner support from enough House Republicans to override a presidential veto. After talks on Tuesday failed to produce an agreement, about 10 House Republicans joined the discussions on Wednesday, including House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/8).
According to meeting participants, the discussions focused on three main points: provisions to prevent undocumented immigrants from enrolling in the program; creating incentives for states to offer premium assistance to low-income families to purchase private insurance; and creating a mechanism that would prevent states from enrolling children in families with annual incomes greater than 250% of the federal poverty level before enrolling children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of the poverty level (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/7).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that House leaders would not bring the bill to the floor without commitments from 20 House Republicans who have voted against previous versions of the bill (CongressDaily, 11/8).
A document titled "Tentative CHIP Agreement," dated Nov. 7 and released by Senate negotiators, suggested that many details of the bill still need to be worked out, CQ Today reports. Carol Guthrie, a spokesperson for lead negotiator Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said that the document was "not current" but would not say how old it was.
According to the document, lawmakers agreed that states could begin to enroll children in families with annual incomes greater than 250% of the poverty level if they have enrolled 90% of children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of the poverty level, or if their coverage rate of lower-income children was equal to or better than that of the 20th-best performing state. The document also said that eligibility would be capped at 300% of the poverty level and states would not be allowed to use "income disregards" in determining eligibility.
In addition, the document said states that cover adults through SCHIP would be required to move them out of the program by Dec. 31, 2009, or when their federal waivers expire. States with income eligibility levels greater than 250% of the poverty level as of Jan. 1, 2010, would be required to offer premium assistance to all families to pay for private insurance, according to the document.
As "outstanding issues," lawmakers listed disagreement over how to treat states whose eligibility already exceeds 250% of the poverty level and how often to test states for compliance. The document noted that lawmakers disagree on whether states can presume certain children are eligible and enroll them in SCHIP, verifying eligibility later, and whether children could be enrolled in SCHIP when they enroll in other government programs, such as food stamps (CQ Today, 11/7).
U.S. Rep. and Louisiana Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal (R) said that an agreement is "very close," adding, "I think there's a lot of desire to get it done" (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 11/8).
However, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday said that negotiations could continue through the end of 2007. Rockefeller added, "Some people are talking because they care. And there are those that may be [talking] because they want to delay" (CongressDaily, 11/8).
Stacy Bernards, spokesperson for Hoyer, said, "As he has said, we want to negotiate and we want a compromise to cover 10 million kids, but we will not be strung along endlessly by those who don't sincerely want a deal" (CQ Today, 11/7).
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that Democrats are further from a deal than they thought, adding, "Everything's in concept, if there's any agreement at all, and I don't think there's a lot of agreement in concept." (CQ Today, 11/7).