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Senate Approves State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization

On January 29, the Senate approved, 66-32, H.R. 2, a measure that would reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through September 30, 2013, after adopting a substitute amendment by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). The substitute amendment would reduce the two semi-annual allotments in FY2013 from $3 billion to $2.85 billion. The substitute amendment also would raise the one-time payment to the secretary of Health and Human Services by $300 million to $11.706 billion. While the bill normally would proceed to a House-Senate conference committee, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has indicated that the House will take up the Senate-passed version; the House initially passed the bill on January 14 (see The Source, 1/16/09). President Obama has indicated that he will sign the measure into law. 

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. 

The following amendments were defeated or tabled during debate on the measure:

  • an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to prohibit any federal payments for noncitizen children or pregnant women unless a state enrolled 95 percent of Medicaid- or SCHIP-eligible children with family incomes at, or below, 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), by voice vote;
  • an amendment by Sen. James DeMint (R-SC) to require states to impose cost-sharing measures, such as coinsurance on children with family incomes above 200 percent of the FPL, 60-37;
  • an amendment by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to limit federal funding to states covering non-pregnant adults and increase the amount states are allowed to provide for the purchase of private insurance, 32-65;
  • an amendment by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) to reinstate the Mexico City policy, which prohibited aid to any foreign organization that counsels on, refers for, or performs abortion services, 37-60; President Obama lifted the restriction via executive order on January 23;
  • an amendment by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) to bar SCHIP funds for families with incomes above $65,000 or over the median income of their state, 36-60;
  • an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to prohibit any state covering children with family incomes above 200 percent of the FPL from receiving undistributed SCHIP funds, 33-64;
  • an amendment by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to require states to cover 80 percent of children with family incomes at, or below, 200 percent of the FPL before covering children from families with higher incomes, 47-51;
  • a second amendment by Sen. Hatch to include “unborn children…at any stage of development” for SCHIP eligibility, 39-59;
  • an amendment by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) to eliminate existing waivers granted by the federal government to states to cover children with family incomes at, or above, 300 percent of the FPL, 44-54; and
  • an amendment by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to give states with higher numbers of uninsured children priority in receiving outreach funds, 17-81.
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