Children’s Health Insurance Update

As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization. The vote was 289-139, with 40 Republican voting in favor and two Democrats against.

The Senate Finance Committee completed work on the Senate version last Thursday. It added the House-passed provision that would allow states to immediately provide coverage to immigrant children and pregnant women who are in this country legally. It also added an option for states to provide dental care coverage for children who don’t have it through private insurance.

Now the full Senate will begin consideration of the SCHIP bill, possibly as early as today. Though Democrats are in a majority, passage is not a slam-dunk. The Republican leadership is strongly opposed to the current version of the bill. This means we are likely to see proposed amendments to narrow it.

Based on what Republican leaders have said, I’m guessing these could include:

  • Elimination of the legal immigrant children and pregnant women option
  • Reduction of income eligibiity from 300% to 200% of the federal poverty level
  • More onerous citizenship verification requirements
  • A provision designed to prevent “crowd out,” i.e., parents switching from private health insurance to SCHIP

The Democrats have the votes to defeat such amendments. But under Senate rules, they will need at least five Republicans to join them in voting to end debate. Without those votes, there can be no vote on the SCHIP bill itself.

Maybe those five votes are already there. If they aren’t, then the SCHIP bill could be weakened to get them.

So those of you who want to see SCHIP significantly expanded should consider contacting your Senators, especially if either or both are Republicans. The toll-free hotline is still open. It’s 1-800-828-0498.

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