Senate Panel Passes Welfare Bill Including Provision to Provide Medicaid Coverage for Some Legal Immigrants
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday voted 13-8 to approve a welfare bill, known as the Work, Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids Act of 2002, that includes an amendment that would let states enroll documented immigrant children and pregnant women in their Medicaid and CHIP programs, the Washington Post reports. The bill is a revision of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which is set to expire this September and "made most immigrants living legally in the United States ineligible for assistance." The House last month passed a welfare reform bill (HR 4737) that does not include such a provision (Goldstein, Washington Post, 6/27). The immigrant provision, which was part of an amendment proposed by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and passed by a 12-9 vote, was supported by most Democrats, who noted that "legal immigrants pay tens of billions of dollars in federal taxes every year, but often cannot afford health coverage." Most committee Republicans did not support the amendment, saying it would cost too much money and would "hold legal immigrants and their sponsors less accountable for health care costs." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, "If we start playing with health care policy, this bill isn't going to go through" (Peterson, National Journal News Service, 6/26).
The bill passed by the committee yesterday also includes funding for both abstinence-only and "abstinence-first" sex education programs. The bill would continue a provision in the 1996 law to provide $50 million each year in funding for abstinence-only education programs, a provision that also is included in the House version of the bill (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 6/27). The committee also approved an amendment by Chair Max Baucus
(D-Mont.) that would allocate $50 million each year for "abstinence-first" sex education programs, which would encourage abstinence but also could teach children about contraception (National Journal News Service, 6/26). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said the Senate bill "falls far short of President Bush's welfare reform reauthorization principles" and added that the full Senate should consider legislation that is "more in line with Bush's principles" (HHS release, 6/26).