Senators Introduce Bill To Expand Kids’ Insurance Program
Sens. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on Thursday introduced a bill (S 1224) that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover six million additional children over the next 10 years, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 4/26).
The legislation would allow states to enroll in SCHIP children in families with annual incomes of as much as 300% of the federal poverty level, compared with the current 200%, and enroll pregnant women and documented immigrant children. The bill would revise the SCHIP funding formula to help ensure that states do not experience budget deficits for the program.
The revised SCHIP funding formula would account for increased health care costs, population growth and the uninsured population of each state. Under the legislation, states would have two years to use their federal SCHIP funds, with any unused funds returned to the program.
The bill also would allow states to use information from other federal programs with income eligibility requirements, such as the federal food stamp program and school lunch program, to determine the eligibility of residents for SCHIP and Medicaid (Carey/Wayne, CQ HealthBeat, 4/26).
In addition, the legislation also would expand SCHIP to cover mental health and dental care. Snowe said of the bill, "It's the least we can do as a nation" (Jansen, Portland Press Herald, 4/26).
Rockefeller said that the bill would cost about $50 billion over five years, although the Congressional Budget Office has not scored the legislation (CongressDaily, 4/26). Rockefeller and Snowe said that Congress could fund the bill through an increase in the federal cigarette tax or a reduction in reimbursements for private Medicare Advantage plans.
Rockefeller said, "I think there are a lot of places we can go for money. This is a priority." He added, "Give me a chance to get my hands on some of that Medicare Advantage money, and I'll be there in a shot." Rockefeller said that the bill could reach the Senate floor for a vote as early as May (CQ HealthBeat, 4/26).