Senate Passes SCHIP Bill with Federal Tobacco Tax Increase

The U.S. Senate voted 66-32 this week to approve a major expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), funded with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tobacco tax, Reuters reported Jan. 30.

The $32.8-billion SCHIP bill would expand eligibility for the health-insurance program to an additional 11 million children; about 7.4 million kids are covered by SCHIP now. The measure was passed twice last year, but vetoed both times by President George Bush.

A similar measure has already passed the House of Representatives, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a final vote could come next week after differences between the two bills are ironed out.

Some critics objected to the bill because it would allow states to enroll moderate-income families and does not include a ban on legal immigrants from getting coverage unless they have been in the U.S. for at least five years.