Lawmakers To Act on Bill To Reauthorize Kids’ Insurance
The Senate Finance Committee next week might mark up legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, but committee members say full Senate action on the reauthorization bill likely will not occur before the July 4 recess, CQ HealthBeat reports. SCHIP is due to expire on Sept. 30.
Senators at a bipartisan committee meeting on Tuesday discussed policy issues related to the legislation, including income eligibility levels and which adults should be covered, such as pregnant women or those who are childless.
The senators also discussed ways to finance an expansion of the program. Funding proposals include increasing the federal tobacco tax or reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans, but no decisions were made at Tuesday's meeting, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The fiscal year 2008 budget resolution includes a "deficit neutral" reserve fund that allows for up to $50 billion in new spending for SCHIP as long as those costs are fully offset.
Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said SCHIP reauthorization is his panel's top policy priority and that he hopes to mark up legislation next week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that with the Senate's full agenda, which includes immigration and energy legislation, SCHIP legislation likely would not be addressed until July (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 6/5).
A Senate markup has not been scheduled, but a Baucus aide said legislation would be made public two days before that happens. The aide added that committee members will continue to meet this week.
Meanwhile, in the House, Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) will include SCHIP funding and a "fix" to scheduled Medicare physician payment cuts in a $100 billion bill, health care analysts said, CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 6/6).
Roll Call on Wednesday examined how "[v]irtually every facet of the health care industry wants to see the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorized and expanded," but no one wants "to foot the bill."
According to Roll Call, a new "pay-as-you-go" rule that requires new spending to be offset by budget cuts or revenue increases "has health insurers, hospitals and home care providers all trying to avoid the chopping block."
Many in the industry are "pointing fingers at other health care sectors," but "the jittery health care community also has banded together to call for a tobacco tax" to fund SCHIP reauthorization, Roll Call reports. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced a measure earlier this year that would increase the federal tobacco tax to help fund SCHIP. Smith spokesperson Kimberly Collins said the senator believes a tobacco tax increase "is the way" to "have true revenue" to "truly have a 'payfor' for the program."
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the insurance lobby group America's Health Insurance Plans, said that her organization supports an expansion of SCHIP but is unwilling to pay for it by cutting Medicare Advantage payments.
AHIP is lobbying for the tobacco tax to fund the program. However, while "the health care sector might cheer this idea, tobacco lobbyists are, not surprisingly, geared up against the proposal," Roll Call reports (Ackley, Roll Call, 6/6).