Legislators Move to Renew Children’s Insurance Program

A bill to reauthorize a popular children’s health insurance program is expected to be ready for President-elect Obama’s signature soon after the inauguration, the Associated Press reported Jan. 9.

Federal funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is scheduled to expire on March 31, but House Democrats said they are scheduling a vote to renew the program. The new iteration of the bill is similar to those approved in 2007 by the House and Senate. President Bush vetoed the previous attempts to pass the measure, citing opposition to the $35-billion price tag and an increase in the federal tobacco tax designated to pay for the program.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the bill “will be done soon.”

“We don’t know if the Senate will act immediately. We hope that they would,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he did not yet know how much the tax on tobacco would be increased to help pay for the renewal and expansion of SCHIP; the original bill called for a 61-cent-per-pack tax increase.

Health insurance benefits for approximately 6 million children are provided through the SCHIP program. The benefits are designated for families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford other health insurance coverage. Lawmakers hope to increase enrollment in the program to 10 million.

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