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Congress Approves Second Bill to Reauthorize Children’s Health Insurance Program

On November 1, the Senate approved, 64-30, a bill (H.R. 3963) to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), after agreeing, 65-30, to a cloture motion to end debate and vote on the bill. The House approved the measure on October 25 (see The Source, 10/26/07). SCHIP’s current authorization expires on November 16, 2007; it was extended via a continuing resolution (P.L. 110-92) enacted on September 29 (see The Source, 9/28/07). Congress approved a previous measure (H.R. 976) in late September (see The Source, 9/28/07), but it was vetoed on October 3. President Bush has indicated he intends to veto this second version of the SCHIP reauthorization as well.

H.R. 3963 differs from H.R. 976 in that it would cap family income eligibility for SCHIP at 300 percent of the federal poverty line. It also would require states to end their coverage of childless adults by December 31, 2008, rather than the end of 2009. Illegal immigrants would be barred from enrolling in SCHIP, and the Social Security Administration would be required to verify the citizenship of all applicants.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) said, “As the father of two young daughters, I clearly understand how important it is to know that if one of them gets sick that they have the health insurance coverage that will provide for their care. For millions of parents, every slight sniffle or aching tooth could mean the difference between paying the rent and paying for medical care. Today we have an opportunity to help give those parents peace of mind about their children’s health.” He continued, “Unfortunately the president still stands in the way. He continues to threaten to veto this important legislation. I am fearful that he will block yet another bipartisan compromise to cover children who need health care. This legislation is vital to the health and well-being of our children. It represents the hard work and agreement of an overwhelming majority of members on both sides of the aisle. It is a testament to how important issues like children’s health care can be addressed in a bipartisan manner by a united Congress. The president’s policy of block and delay would mean Connecticut and other states would have to take away existing health coverage for hundreds of thousands of children when they should be covering more kids. I urge my colleagues to support this critical legislation, and I urge President Bush to do what is right and sign it into law.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said, “I voted for the first bill. I think it was a good bill. It had many good features. But I expected, when the president’s veto was sustained in the House, the House leadership would take a step back, meet with the president’s staff, work something out, and go forward with something new a new try. That is not what we have in this bill before us. That is why I voted against the motion to proceed.” She continued, “I am going to vote for the bill today. But I do hope this signal is heard; that is, we would ask the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate to sit down with the president’s staff to work out an agreement where we can all support this bill that will continue the very important mission of SCHIP: to give a safety net to children who are above the Medicaid level, but still 200 percent or 300 percent, at most, above poverty, and [to] give them an opportunity…We do not want a big government program. We do want to cover SCHIP and Medicaid through government auspices, but we do not want [the SCHIP program] to…supplant the private insurance that many people in the 250 percent to 350 percent above poverty level [income range] already have access to.”

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