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House, Senate Finance Committee Pass State Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization

This week, the House and the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through September 30, 2013. SCHIP was created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33) and provides health insurance to low-income children who are ineligible for Medicaid but unable to obtain private health insurance coverage. SCHIP’s current authorization (P.L. 110-173) expires March 31, 2009.

House

On January 14, the House approved, 289-139, Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 2), after defeating, 179-247, a motion to recommit by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) that would have required states to cover 90 percent of eligible children with family incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($42,400 for a family of four) before covering children from families with high incomes. The bill retains several provisions from legislation that was passed during the 110th Congress but was vetoed by President Bush (see The Source, 10/19/07, 11/2/07, and 1/25/08.

The measure would raise the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents per pack to pay for the program increases, require states to end their coverage of childless adults by October 1, 2010, and restrict the enrollment of parents of eligible children and pregnant women. For additional information about this provision, see The Source, 10/26/07.

Unlike its predecessors, H.R. 2 would allow states to offer coverage to pregnant women and children who are legal immigrants who have been in the country five years or less. The measure would require applicants to provide a social security number and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify the number. If the SSA is unable to verify an applicant’s citizenship status, additional “documentary evidence” would be required.

H.R. 2 would allow enrollment of children of families with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($63,600 for a family of four in 2008). The measure would authorize $10.562 billion in FY2009, $12.52 billion in FY2010, $13.459 billion in FY2011, $14.982 billion in 2012, and two “semi-annual allotments” of $3 billion each for FY2013. A one-time appropriation of $11.406 billion would be available to the secretary of Health and Human Services between October 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

Senate Finance Committee

On January 15, the Senate Finance Committee approved, 12-7, a bill (as-yet-unnumbered) to reauthorize SCHIP through September 30, 2013. The Senate version of the bill is substantially similar to H.R. 2 (see above).

During debate on the measure, the committee approved the following amendments:

  • an amendment by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) that would allow states to remove the five-year waiting period for legal immigrant women and children to enroll in SCHIP, 12-7; and
  • an amendment by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that would allow states to provide a dental-only benefit to eligible children who have private health insurance coverage, by voice vote.The following amendments were defeated:
  • an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that would have eliminated federal matching funds for children with family incomes above 300 percent of the federal poverty line, 7-11; and
  • an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-OH) that would have clarified that pregnant women are eligible for treatment not related to their pregnancy and to extend their coverage for 60 days following the birth of their child, by voice vote.
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